Nikola Tesla loved immense power of another kind
Always seeking light
We all have heroes we look up to for inspiration, validation, and hope.
A few of my heroes are Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Carl Sagan, E.O. Wilson, Jane Goodall. Come to think of it, I have far more heroes than I can list.
But no hero inspires me more, or gives me more hope that our species can use creativity, intelligence, and compassion, more than Nikola Tesla. And, I believe what particularly distinguishes him from my other inspirations is just how much of an underdog he is. I think this is what attracts many of Tesla’s admirers.
Tesla was ambitious to understand, and create power, not take it.
History celebrates the many achievements of Thomas Edison and his name is synonymous with power, invention, and the whole ushering in of a century. As little school kids, we are taught that Thomas Edison is the very standard for what an enterprising, determined, young American should be. He stands for innovation, but Edison also inspires our youth to become rich as major driving force that denotes success.
Tesla never made money his focus. He wanted to help humankind.
Edison’s colossal errors
My personal belief is that a lot of this Edison lauding lore is due to the admonishment of our teachers to keep us quiet and studious, devoted, and unquestioning.
Nikola Tesla could never contain his energy. And, he was always questioning.
And there are countless other reasons to suspect Edison’s perfection is overrated. The Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Brooklyn, New York, electrocuted Topsy, the circus elephant, to death in 1903. On film.
I still haven’t gotten over it. I am not alone.
There is dispute over whether Thomas Edison himself was behind the event, but there is no doubt that he benefited from the publicity his company received. A long-standing rivalry between the effectiveness of alternating current, AC, and direct current, DC, had been raging between Edison and Tesla, his shamefully dismissed, brilliant employee, had been ongoing for some time.
For a very quick review: AC is better for long distance transmission. It uses transformers to help regulate power effectively. It is more effective down to individual requirements. It costs less. It is less wasteful.
That said, It is more dangerous, simply because it is more powerful. But, it may be argued, it is more dangerous in the same way that a semi-trailer truck is more powerful than a little electric car. It is best, to stay off the road, and out of traffic in either case. You wouldn’t want to be hit, after all, by either one.
Power and the powerless
Back to random electrocution of animals. If Drunk History is correct, (why would you doubt it?) Edison did not just play a major part in Topsy’s horrific death. He electrocuted hundreds of animals, lost pets, (your missing fluffy, or that scrappy do, street dog the whole block looked out for?) He electrocuted cows (the babies!) and even a horse or two.
All of this mayhem was to prove that the much more brilliant, and impoverished, Nikola Tesla’s ideas never got the credit for the light bulb moment we all have in our minds when an “Ah Ha!” moment occurs.
The worst part of all, perhaps? He paid boys twenty-five cents a piece for every stray they brought in. A despicable way to treat children, especially generations of boys who were taught that cruelty is profitable, stealing and lying is cool, and exploitation is acceptable. Talk about man-spreading toxic masculinity.
Tesla, on the other hand, was obsessed with reconciling nature’s powers and mysteries with those of humanity. He really believed in the betterment of our species. And as for quaint tales of animal love, he apparently really cared for them, if the feeding, care, and even psychic love for his many pampered — but never confined — New York Apartment pigeons, is any indication.
He advocated for vegetarianism long before it was fashionable. He understood what he called the “cruel barbarity” of animal slaughter, as well as the unhealthy costs to human lives, not only to the physical health of people, but to the use of nature for polluting exploitation.
Tesla was a weirdo. We love weirdos!
He was not perfect. This serves to make Tesla even more adorable. He was a germaphobe, and did not like social contact with most people. He seemed especially reserved about women, but this may well be due to the fact that his own mother was a brilliant scientist and the frivolous roles of New York City socialites must have been very off-putting to him.
On the other hand, he fully recognized that bodily autonomy was priceless, a particularly feminist ideal, and he felt that too many people accepted hate, savagery, and oppression.
Nikola Tesla, besides being a genius, was a very handsome man. He was generous to a fault, often giving extravagant tips to service people. He gave Thomas Edison twenty-hour work days, and significant ideas and insights. He was quirky, and overflowing with strange ideas about everything from psychic energy to human energy machines. This marks him as ahead of his time, and not eager to be held back by stuffy, and rigid, close-minded science of the day.
My brain is only a receiver. In the universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength, and inspiration. Nikola Tesla
He gave us Neon light, turbines, the radio, the Tesla coil (Would we even have science fiction movies without it!?) the tele-automation machine — think radio-controlled toys and drones — the power plant, and the induction motor, to name just a few.
All in all, he had nearly 300 patents, and most of them are not yet realized as practical inventions.
Dreams that are not even yet realized still unfold in the world today thanks to one curious man, his brilliant mind, and his very human heart.