With over a thousand U.S. patents to his credit, Edison is often revered as the more accomplished inventor of the two. However, the debate continues to grow as to which of these geniuses actually had a greater impact on modern civilization, and which, in fact, was a better man in doing so.
At the crux of this argument lies the paramount question: which was a more profound discovery – Edison’s Direct Current (DC) electricity or Tesla’s Alternating Current (AC) electricity? Although it would seem obvious that since our entire power grid structure is based on AC, that it must be more important to us than DC. However, many electronic items still convert AC to DC because DC is still applicable when distances are small, and especially when energy storage or conversion uses batteries or fuel cells. Likewise, Edison was instrumental in the invention of batteries, and it’s difficult to imagine our lives without them either.
Essentially, the success of each invention comes down to its practicality. For example, Edison didn’t necessarily develop the very first light bulb; he came up with the first light bulb that could be used for an extended period of time in people’s homes – practicality. And when it came time to deploy either AC or DC electricity across a massive grid, it was simply more practical to distribute vast amounts of power across long distances using Tesla’s transformers to make the electricity safe and usable for residences and businesses; rather than building thousands of coal-burning power plants every couple of miles to send DC over short distances to avoid power degradation and line-loss. With the financial backing of George Westinghouse, AC quickly became recognized as merely the more practical means to distribute electricity to the masses.
Still, neither man can take sole credit for either invention, since dozens of scientists before them laid the groundwork for the technologies that their innovations were built upon. Not to mention, without Westinghouse’s funding, Tesla’s ideas might never have seen the light of day, just as many of his ideas did not, throughout much of his life. Unlike Edison, who had tremendous business savvy, and was able to sell many of his inventions to the masses, which gained him considerable fame and fortune throughout his life, Tesla seemed much more interested in science than money.
Ultimately, the “War of Currents” may have ended in a tie, as many electronic devices still require both AC and DC technologies to work together simultaneously. Or, as is the case with power inverters, DC power is simply converted to AC, allowing you to power electrical devices on-the-go.
Using a car battery as the DC source, a basic inverter can directly convert 12VDC to approximately 120VAC, 140 watts AC, allowing you to power devices such as laptops, TVs, CD players, etc., just by plugging it into the car lighter.
In conclusion, with remarkable contributions to radio transmission, motion picture cameras, X-rays, and thousands of other technological advancements, it’s hard to deny that both men weren’t incredibly influential in bringing about a number of extremely beneficial advancements to society; and we owe a considerable amount of gratitude and respect to both of them for their tremendous work and accomplishments.
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