Comments: Edison overrated? Readers praise legacy of inventor Nikola Tesla
The site of inventor Nikola Tesla's former laboratory sits idle and boarded up in Shoreham, New York.
August 21st, 2012
07:26 PM ET

Comments: Edison overrated? Readers praise legacy of inventor Nikola Tesla

Editor's note: We're listening to you. Every day, we spot thought-provoking comments from readers. Here's a look at what readers are saying.

Call Nikola Tesla a "cult hero" if you like, but some of our readers might take issue with you. News that Matthew Inman, the creator of Web cartoon "The Oatmeal," is collaborating with a nonprofit group to create a Tesla museum has commenters singing the futurist inventor's praises. Many say they think he deserves more recognition in the annals of scientific history.

Backers raise cash for Tesla museum honoring 'cult hero'

They hashed out the legacies of Tesla and Thomas Edison, sometimes viewed to be at odds.

MDMick: "The article describes him as a 'cult' hero with far-out dreams, but Tesla was an accomplished scientist. He is the one who realized Edison was wrong by insisting on direct current public electricity supplies and it could be done more safely and much cheaper with alternating current. The modern American - and world - electricity grids are ALL based on Tesla's patents and first working systems he developed for Westinghouse. Edison tried to discredit Tesla and the 'Electric Chair' was invented to try to scare people away from AC current electricity. But Tesla was right and Edison wrong and AC prevailed as Tesla's calculations and foresight proved true - and made Westinghouse (now part of Northrup) a big name."

Kevin Schooler: "Edison wasn't wrong about direct current being useful, he was only wrong about the application. Have you ever wondered why so many electronic devices have an AC adapter? That is because they must convert AC to DC in order to run correctly and safely. The only problem is that DC loses potency over distance. I'll never understand the whole revisionist 'Tesla Angelic/Edison Evil' paradigm. The fact is both contributed enormously to modern living, but Edison happened to be a better businessman."

Was Tesla overlooked in favor of Edison?

hook59: "The sad demise of Tesla living and dying in debt just shows how corporate America, or those in power controlling things to the benefit of themselves and their greed. Edison was dead set on having his way in the electrical energy department. Westinghouse saw the benefit of Teslas ideas. But Teslas ideas were virtually swallowed up by the bigger fish in the pond. It's really a wonder that we hear anything at all about Tesla depsite his intelligence. It's no different today when a little guy invents something that doesn't get swallowed up and shelved by corporate greed."

joninva: "Tesla was not a 'little guy.' He was world famous during his time. The fact he was broke when he died was because he got shafted by Edison and Tesla himself was not a good businessman. History will forever record that Tesla was the better scientist than Edison. However, Edison was a better businessman and politician."

The term "cult hero" is in the eye of the beholder.

JoeSchmoe: "Cult hero, huh? This guy could have solved the U.S. energy problems before they began. He was a genius that surpassed Bell, Edison and just about every scientist of his time and more then a few from our current time. He designed the Hoover Dam which still runs today. His experiments in high-voltage energy transmission were ground breaking technology a hundred years ahead of its time. That would be like a 747 flying overhead while the Wright brothers were at Kitty hawk. That is who you are calling a cult hero."

Peter Zang: " 'Cult Hero' is not a negative term. It just means his 'heroic' status is appreciated by a good number of people outside the mainstream. He should be considered a true American hero for his contributions, but too few of the general population have any idea or understanding of what he did."

Maybe Tesla was just ahead of his time.

voodoochild1975: "I've always thought the dude would be a lot more comfortable in 2012 than in 1912. I really think he hit the wrong century. I think 'cult following' is coming from how, unlike Edison, Einstein, Bell, etc., Tesla doesn't usually get his own chapter in grade school history books. You have to know a bit about what he was doing, the science involved, and how eerily he foreshadowed where that technology would end up. Anyone think he would be at all surprised to see cell phones today? So Tesla is the scientist other scientists and geeks tend to appreciate. Or at least that's my take on the 'cult hero' remark."

drowlord: "Without Tesla doing his thing then, 2012 would be a lot more like 1912 ..."

vr13: "With only one correction. Tesla's place is first of all in the physics books. And secondly, he does get a lot of recognition, bad sadly not in the American educational system that is too heavy on 'soft social knowledge.' In the countries that place higher value on science education, Tesla is well known."

Kalanaole: "According to Dean Koontz theory, Tesla was ALIVE in 2012. Time travel ..."

How do you feel about Tesla's legacy? Ever done an experiment in his honor? Share your opinion in the comments area below or show us your projects via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: On Earth • Science Education
soundoff (227 Responses)
  1. Nurida

    that going back in time and creating an anltrtaee time line distorts reality for us now is a silly notion indeed. In the case of current Multiple reality theories, choosing to put purple socks on in the morning would create a separate time line as, the you in another time line will have worn blue socks instead. These anltrtaee time lines incur no stresses whatsoever! No earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. He needs to go study M-Theory!!

    October 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  2. sjinsj

    Tesla was without a doubt a great Engineer and inventor. He should be properly recognized for his contributions. The museum is a great idea and deserves to happen.

    There is no need to attack Edison or anyone else to prove Tesla's capability. Why do so many feel they need to trash Edison to elevate Tesla? Can't Tesla's work stand on it's own?

    October 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  3. sjinsj

    This entire topic reminds me of people arguing over who was the greatest NFL Quarterback in history. It always ends up being subjective. Problem is, most of the posters here don't even understand what they are talking about. They repeat legends and myths about the technology as well as the inventors.

    The only other place you will see this much nonsense and misinformation is on political threads. Yes, this debate has become political in its own way.

    October 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  4. Tesla is The Greatest

    Yes, yes! Tesla invented nearly every aspect of modern technology! AC power, generators, the telephone, radio, electric cars, microwaves, radar, submarines, the diesel engine, the computer, CDs and DVDs, the Internet, and now the Iphone! Every facet, every nuance, every part of our modern technology was either conceived, directly invented, or taken from his work!!! A string of thieves, charlatans, imposters, and usurpers starting with Edison have stolen the credit for all of this technology from the rightful inventor, Tesla! Tesla was the greatest person in the history of the planet and you must all worship him!

    September 22, 2012 at 3:40 am |
  5. keith cossairt

    Tesla was with out a doubt, the most important man in history.

    September 4, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • keith cossairt

      well, next to baby jesus.

      September 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  6. Carole Bourgeois

    hey guys, the fundraiser for the Tesla museum is great, but in the meantime we need to tell his complete life story and the inventions that brought us into civilization. Go to / Tesla and see campaign for the great docudrama on Tesla's life story. WE NEED YOUR HELP! AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS! We want to change history for our children and the next generation.

    August 31, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  7. Diana Dawner

    To my knowledge, Tesla never electrocuted an elephant in the name of publicity. A major point in his favor.

    August 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  8. CD

    Both men brilliant for sure. They marched humankind into the 20th century. All things being equal, Edison was more politically connected with business savvy. Unfortunately, it appears that he had a cut throat approach as well. Tesla should be praised not only for his contributions but for his absolute commitment to his beliefs. He never backed down to big power. Christopher Dycha

    August 26, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  9. E. I.

    Edison wouldn't have been Edison without Nikola Tesla and Kepler wouldn't have been Kepler without Tycho Brahe. Nikola Tesla and Tycho Brahe are the actual heros. Edison and Kepler are the tip of the iceberg where NikolaTesla and Tycho Brahe were the iceberg itself. A "fall into someone's lap" situation in discoveries world...

    August 25, 2012 at 3:39 am |
  10. Ad Soyad

    Where are all other comments after 22.8.2012????

    August 25, 2012 at 3:38 am |
  11. Bill D.

    Tesla is further proof that aliens stop by every hundred years or so to give our technology a kick. If you want to spot the aliens, look for these traits: No kids, hates women (obviously an alien can't reproduce with a human, so easiest way out is to mask it). As in, Newton, DaVinci, Tesla, and others. When you see a true genius, you will almost invariably find they worked alone and never had children. By the way, you have to also give Tesla credit for Tunguska, as that happened (coincidentally) on the night he tested his Tower of Power.... bounced off the ionisphere as predicted and flattened the Siberian countryside. The power he released was almost incalculable. Love Tesla, whatever he was, he was really having fun.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  12. Michael Vick

    Things such as x-ray and microwave was science fiction back then, but not anymore. Microwave is a household item. Many of Tesla's inventions simply takes time for us to digest.

    August 23, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  13. Teddy

    Tesla, a man out of time(taken from his bibliography ), is an ingenious creator and a science magician that can surpass all the scientists that we have encountered in our history. I am not minimizing anyone's invention including Edison's but I think Tesla is the one who foreshadowed the future of our world and made tangible contributions towards paving an invaluable path of new era of civilizations and possibilities. To be honest, people who argue that Tesla didn't know the value of DC current are mistaken. Tesla knew the importance of both AC and DC signals. As a result, he wanted to renovate the inefficient and highly power dissipative invention of Edison with a very versatile and thrifty AC current generators. In addition to that, all Tesla's works are mathematically provable and agreeable with Maxwell's electromagnetic equations

    August 23, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  14. Dougee909

    Man oh man, I sure am reading a lot of exaggerations about Tesla on this thread. Contrary to what has been stated, he did not design Hoover Dam, nor did he invent the fluorescent light as we know it. Edison was actually the first to create a discharge tube with phosphor coating, but as it was excited by X-rays it was not commercially viable. Tesla's engineering was used in the Niagara Falls powerplant; it had been a childhood dream of his to harness a portion of the Niagara's immense power.

    Tesla didn't invent the modern three-phase power system we use today; his prototype polyphase system used two phases – practical but not as efficient. The three-phase system was rolled out by one Almarian Decker, a little-known Southern California engineer. And for the DC sympathizers, sure, lots of electronic stuff now uses DC, but the wheels of industry are still powered by gigantic AC motors, which Tesla succeeded in creating despite guffaws from his engineering professors.

    Tesla's fame lies in primacy – the advancement of original ideas that were improved upon later. He pioneered the concept of radio; Marconi used his ideas to create a smaller transmitter and receiver that were more practical than Tesla's gigantic "magnifying transmitters." He invented the AC motor, which was far more important to the Industrial Revolution than Edison/Swan's light bulb. He was the first to think up a "discovering ray," which was built later by someone else using his idea and called "radar." And, of course, he built a remote-controlled submarine, the first vehicle of its kind in the world.

    One of Edison's greatest bumblings was his overlooking of the "Edison effect," which was discovered in his laboratory. He observed that current would flow in one direction from a light bulb filament to another electrode placed in the bulb. This effect, which Edison blew off, was actually the basis for electronics from the early 1900s until the advent of solid-state electronics. Other visionaries like Charles Fleming and Lee de Forest put the Edison effect to work.

    "Free energy" is a fringe concept that has never been proven. There are some apocryphal stories about Tesla driving an electric car powered by the "aether," but none have been proven. He did want to transmit electricity wirelessly, but we now know that such transmission would be very inefficient. Also, some of his theories about the entire world resonating electrically have been disproven.

    The bottom line is, Edison and Tesla both contributed greatly to the advancement of science, as did many of their contemporaries. Edison is very much overrated and Tesla does deserve credit where it is due. But no one man did everything!

    August 22, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Terry G

      Tesla is probably the most underated genius that ever existed. Shame on the "Education" systems around the world that ignore him. With out his efforts we would still be in the 1800s. There should be an international Tesla day. He was dudded by the big money men of the day, imagine where we would be today had they ha dthe smarts to keep bankrolling him.

      August 29, 2012 at 8:45 am |
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