Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Behold the Terrible Power of Alternating Electricity!" Thomas Alva Edison, 1903



I just listened to this wonderful audio show about forgotten visionary scientist Nikola Tesla on Studio 360. (Well, perhaps it is not quite fair to say "forgotten" when he has been immortalized by the band Tesla and Tesla Girls by OMD...)

One segment of the show details the battle between Thomas Alva Edison and Nikola Tesla regarding direct (AC) vs alternating (DC) (yes--AC/DC!) methods of conducting electricity. Edison, in order to sway the public against Tesla's superior (much safer, better light, exponentially faster ) form of electricity hired representatives to travel to state and county fairs where they would publicly electrocute cats, dogs, horses, chickens, and in one famous incident at Luna Park, an elephant, while saying, "Behold the terrible power of alternating electricity!" Of course, they never mentioned that Edison's proposed DC current would electrocute them just as dead...

Listen to the whole story here. Read more about the elephant electrocution here. and watch it on video above.

3 comments:

D said...

The book "Empires of Light" is a wonderful history of the AC/DC wars. It also helps shed some light on the complicated feelings between Edison and Tesla, which I think were not as clearcut as people think. When Telsa's Houston street lab burned down he actually used Edisons Menlo park digs for a while, and I think the two men had rather complicated feelings about one another.

Octopus Grigori said...

Tesla plays a large part in Against the Day, which I'm still in the middle of.

GreenmanTim said...

David Bowie plays Tesla in the 2006 film The Prestige.