The War of Currents

The War of Currents

The name Tesla has always fascinated me. Recently, I was flipping through the pages of a book on Electricity when the name ‘Nikola Tesla’ caught my eye. So that’s where Elon Musk got his cool name from! Hundreds of questions bubbled in my head. As I read on, I realized that this journey of understanding Tesla was just the beginning. It was on 10 July 1856 that fierce lightning struck in the village of Smiljan in Croatia. Milutin and Duka Tesla had given birth to a baby boy and named him Nikola. Little did they know that their baby boy would soon grow up to be the greatest scientists of all time.

Even as a boy, Nikola loved science. After church, Nikola would excitedly rush to school. He became the teacher’s beloved student as he was bright and funny at the same time. He would know all the formulae and elements. Science was taught in German, as it was a school within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the age of 23, Nikola Tesla recognized his destiny as an engineer. In 1882, Tivadar Puskás got Tesla another job in Paris with the Continental Edison Company. Edison’s industry was working on installing lighting citywide in the form of electric power.

Thomas Edison had just invented the light bulb and was dead set on making his direct current (DC) worldwide. Well, there was only one glitch in DC. The direct current would only move in a straight line and so the electric power will only produce in a short area. When Tesla heard of this current, he thought over it and decided he had other plans. He went back home early and started designing the fundamental current. He thought of a current that could produce electric energy in a very large area (For example New York to Chicago). Exhausted from failures, He went to the park, slept for a while, and then started thinking again. At that moment, he saw a bicycle moving. He saw the alternating wheels and how they moved so smoothly. Yes, he got it! Instead of the current going in a straight path, it could go alternately!

Tesla rushed out of the park and immediately went to the company. He told Edison that he had discovered another great current called the alternating current (AC). The AC could produce light in a much larger area as the currents would go back and forth. “It could be more efficient”, he said. Instead of praising him for the brilliant idea, Edison rejected the suggestion. “The Direct Current can manage for now”, he said coldly. Rejected, Tesla got irritated. He planned to start his own business with the money he had. After impressing two investors, Tesla began his own electric industry. He shared the plan with some of his workers, and they were left astounded with the great plan. Meanwhile, in Edison’s company, people were protesting that DC was unfortunately not as safe as AC and that he should give up.

After 3 months, the war of currents was over. The Alternating Current had won by giving light to the whole city. For many years, Alternating Current was what mostly everybody talked about. Everything was going well until tragedy struck. On January 7, 1943, Nikola Tesla died of Coronary Thrombosis. Even though Edison took the title of discovering AC for a long period, now we all know who the real genius is. Without the boy who was born on 10 July 1856, at the peak of midnight, in that small village in Smiljan, we wouldn’t know the world as it is today.

-Rouvin Upadhyay

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