What was Tesla’s Relationship with Edison?
Tesla initially idolized the Wizard of Menlo Park, who was nine years his senior.
Both worked incessantly, although Edison focused more on trial and error while Tesla relied on math formulas and visions in his mind. Tesla helped Edison improve many of his machines but left when Edison refused to pay Tesla a promised bonus and mocked the Serbian immigrant for not understanding American ways. The two fought the War of the Currents.
Yet when Tesla’s laboratory burned down, it was Edison who offered him space to work. Edison even came around to the benefits of alternative current and praised Tesla’s work at Niagara Falls. The two, moreover, maintained throughout their lives a cordial exchange of letters.
Tesla often expressed mixed sentiments for his one-time hero and oft-times rival. He described Edison as “by far the most successful and, probably, the last exponent of the purely empirical method of investigation.” Yet he also chided Edison’s methods as “inefficient in the extreme” and said Edison “had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge.”
Tesla: Inventor of the Modern