Nikola Tesla Articles
Mr. Tesla Speaks Out
To the Editor of the World:
Permit me a few words of comment relative to The World editorial of Oct. 21 in which I am directly concerned.
Edison's work on the incandescent lamp and direct-current system of distribution was more like the performance of an extraordinarily energetic and horse-sensed pioneer than that of an inventor; it was prodigious in amount, but not creative. The lamp itself, consisting of a carbon filament in an exhausted globe, was well known and even patented years before. Crookes had employed incandescent conductors with leading-in platinum wires sealed in the glass and obtained extremely high vacua: the multiple-arc arrangement was frequently shown at institutions of learning, display windows and exhibitions with Geissler tubes; electric generators had been constructed, means for regulating current and voltage described and canalization of electricity was as obvious as that of water, gas, compressed air or other commodity.
Irrespective of this, however, his primitive scheme of lighting was subject to fatal economic limitations and could have never proved a commercial success in competition. Indeed, during the past thirty-five years it has been almost wholly displaced by a more practical and efficient system based on my rotating magnetic field, a discovery which even hard-headed engineers and patent lawyers have declared to be "one of the greatest triumphs of the human mind." To convey an idea of the extent of its use I only need to quote Dr. B. A. Behrend, one of the foremost electrical experts, who in his book on the induction motor says: "Were we to eliminate from our industrial world the results of Mr. Tesla's work the wheels of industry would cease to turn, our electric trains and cars would stop, our towns would be dark, our mills dead and idle. So far-reaching is this work that it has become the warp and woof of industry."
Edison and his associates bitterly opposed the introduction of my system, raising a clamor against the "deadliness" of the alternating current, which proved very effective and led to the adoption of a commercial type of machine in electrocution of criminals, an apparatus monstrously unsuitable, for the poor wretches are not despatched in a merciful manner but literally roasted alive. To the observer their sufferings seem to be of short duration; it must be borne in mind, though, that an individual under such conditions, while wholly bereft of the consciousness of the lapse of time, retains a keen sense of pain, and a minute of agony is equivalent to that through all eternity.
Had the Edison companies not finally adopted my invention they would have been wiped out of existence, and yet not the slightest acknowledgment of my labors has ever been made by any of them, a most remarkable instance of the proverbial unfairness and ingratitude of corporations. But the reason is not far to see. One of their prominent men told me that they are spending $10,000,000 every year to keep Edison's name before the public, and he added that it is worth more to them. Of course, in all that unceasing and deafening shouting from the housetops any voice raised to apprise people of the real state of things is like the chirp of a little sparrow in the roar of Niagara. So it comes that very few have a clear idea of the situation.
In truth, my system has not only provided energy for all purposes throughout the world but also revolutionized electric lighting and made it a great commercial success by reducing the cost of power and increasing enormously the distance of transmission. The greater part of the $60,000,000,000 which, according to President Hoover's statement, represented the value of electric business, can be traced to my system and its effect on the lighting and other industries. In view of this I feel that I also have done much to dispel darkness. Surely, my system is more important than the incandescent lamp, which is but one of the known electric illuminating devices and admittedly not the best. Although greatly improved through chemical and metallurgical advances and skill of artisans it is still inefficient, and the glaring filament emits hurtful rays responsible for millions of bald heads and spoiled eyes. In my opinion, it will soon be superseded by the electrodeless vacuum tube which I brought out thirty-eight years ago, a lamp much more economical and yielding a light of indescribable beauty and softness. The technical resources of that time were inadequate to make it a practical success, but most of the difficulties will be overcome when cheap quartz glass becomes available.
No amount of praise is too much to bestow upon Edison for his vigorous pioneer work, but all he did was wrought in known and passing forms. What I contributed constitutes a new and lasting addition to human knowledge. Like his lamp, my induction motor may be discarded and forgotten in the continuous evolution of the arts, but my rotating field with its marvelous phenomena and manifestations of force will live as long as science itself.
New York, Nov. 5