What do electricity and political power have in common?

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Glenn has been doing a lot of research lately on the 1800s, and he has become particularly fascinated by Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. Edison and George Westinghouse (who used Tesla’s technology) became locked in a heated “Battle of the Currents” in the late 19th century, which pitted Edison’s direct current (DC) power distribution against Tesla and Westinghouse’s alternating current (AC).

While the science of electricity might not seem all that pertinent, Glenn explained the significance of Edison and Westinghouse’s battle for superiority on radio this morning.

In the early years of electricity distribution, Edison’s direct current became the gold standard in the United States. The majority of Europe, on the other hand, used alternating current technology, and Tesla patented motors using this distribution technique in the U.S. Westinghouse Electric company licensed these patents for use, recognizing its inherent superiority to the DC system that was currently in use.

Edison was well aware that his product was inferior to the AC motor Tesla developed. He had all of his money tied up in DC technology, and yet it became clear that DC was not the future. To oversimplify the matter, DC distribution basically required you to have a power plant in very close proximity to the item that required power (i.e. light bulb). Furthermore, the power emitted in DC distribution was extremely low. DC power was remarkably safe but completely unworkable.

Editor’s Note: Neither Glenn nor the staff are all that expert on the subject of electricity and electrical distribution, so please bear with us.

It became clear that Edison would soon be out of work if he didn’t find a way to make his product relevant, and it is here that this story becomes particularly interesting. Until Tesla, no one had come up with an AC distribution system in the U.S. that was viable. But Westinghouse Electric now had the technology to transmit power from the dams in Niagara all the way to New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Edison recognized Tesla’s success and knew his business was obsolete.

“So what does Edison do,” Glenn asked. “Edison knows this is the end of his company… So he writes a pamphlet – a warning from the Edison Electric Light Company.”

This was no longer a “Battle of the Currents.” This was a battle for power.

“Think of this in terms of power,” Glenn continued. “This is an argument about power. What does [Edison] do? First, he says Westinghouse is just greedy… There’s argument number one. Argument number two: anything that Westinghouse has, he stole. And some of the things he takes and changes a few things and slaps his name. He’s rich and powerful. He’s a thief.”

“He’s taking things that don’t belong to him? Does any of this sound familiar,” Glenn asked. “Think of it in respect to guns. Think about what’s happening right now, and why it’s being done.”

Edison started by demonizing Westinghouse’s wealth (even though he too was wealthy). Then he accused Westinghouse of being a thief – he deserves no credit for the work he has done. Edison, considered an expert, came out and said that there is no way there will ever be a way to improve the DC system. He admitted that it was imperfect, but clarified that there would be no safe way to make AC distribution workable. He dug up stories on the horrors of the alternating current – someone dying after stepping on a wet wire or children being electrocuted for touching a down wire. Edison, who opposed capital punishment, went so far as to develop the first ever electric chair using the system of alternating current in order to promote the idea that AC was deadlier than DC.

“This had nothing to do with humanity and everything to do with power,” Glenn said. “When you watch the President today, understand that you may not be talking about electricity, but what you are talking about is power – a man’s willingness to do anything for unstopped no holds barred power. That’s it.”

  • http://youtu.be/XEjnyMyJYTI Sam Fisher

    The more things that change the more things stay the same. This
    battle sounds like most of the battles in Washington D.C. 

  • http://www.artinphoenix.com/gallery/grimm snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    Politics in and of itself is about the gaining, usage of and maintaining of control and power over the system and of the people. 

    That in a nutshell is what the battle between Edison and Tesla was about, and what we are having happen in DC and across the nation to this day. Obama is as ruthless as anything and will, along with Reid, do anything he must to keep his position and power to continue his insane transformation of the nation.

  • http://www.artinphoenix.com/gallery/grimm snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    Indeed, same mess, same players, just different packaging on the outside.

  • Anonymous

    Edison’s company later became General Electric – GE. And Jeffrey Immelt, who is GE’s present CEO, was appointed to That Man’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board while GE reportedly  paid zero U.S. taxes in 2010. Fair Share?

    Birds of a feather I guess. I’m sure they understand each other very well.

  • greywolfrs

    Sorry, but do any of you really think left wing dolts, that voted for Obamao, will understand this analogy? They can’t see past the nose of their face, you are speaking WAY above them. They will not even understand the point of playing on their feelings, which is exactly what the left does. Does anyone really think Obamao, Piglosi or Harry Balls gives two s***s about those kids that were killed? They don’t, they simply use things like that to get left wing dolts to go along with their agenda.

  • Anonymous

    absolute power corrupts absolutely
    oh how i wish we could get rid of politics…it ruins everything..it ruins schools,churches,and our
    country all together!!

  • david Scott

     Finally someone else is seeing what I see. The corruption that Edison Started has remained in his company for all these years and they are using the same secret combinations to control our government. You might want to look up more on Tesla and his funding from JP Morgan and how JP Morgan took away all funding when he found out that Tesla was working on providing free wireless power to everyone. It might blow your mind to find out that Einstein and Tesla disagreed on the way that power could be harvested from the atom and the Government used Einstein’s Ideas because it could be used to make the atom bomb, a weapon that could be used against a foreign country. whereas Tesla Believed that there was even more power to be had in the atom, but it wouldn’t be able to produce an explosion, only unlimited free power for all. You can’t be rich and powerful unless you have control of something that the masses want or need.

  • Anonymous

    Actually I’ve been doing little else than studying Dr. Tesla’s work for almost two years now. If you actually read his lectures, papers, and patents in the context of the late 19th and early 20th centuries you will find that, aside from the Tesla/Edison “War of the Currents”, most of what you stated above is untrue.

    But you have to study Dr. Tesla’s work, not what other people say about his work.  For example, he never had any intention to provide power to the world for free. Although he did have a way to transmit power globally without wires, he also had a way to individualize the transmission by using a mix of frequencies so that only receivers working on the correct combination of frequencies and timing would be able to access the power. He would never have been able to raise the money he needed to build the multi-million dollar transmitters without being able to bill for it. If someone didn’t pay their bill he could just stop transmission with that receiver’s parameters. You won’t find in any of his writings where he said he intended to supply power for free.

    Dr. Tesla stated that J. P. Morgan lived up to alll of his obligations under the contract they had. He had no beef with Morgan. Morgan was interested in wireless communications and he got hoodwinked into supporting Marconi’s work since Marconi accomplished intercontinetal wireless communication before Dr. Tesla did. That company later became RCA.

    What came out later in the 1940′s, after Dr. Tesla died, was that Marconi’s transmitter used several devices that Dr. Tesla had already patented. That was decided in a patent suit and, therefore, made Dr. Tesla the inventor of radio, not Marconi.

    Sounds like you’ve been reading Gerry Vassilatos’ (sp?) work. Although a good read, there are things stated in that work that he could not possibly know without having been present at Dr. Tesla’s experiments. Vassilatos took some artistic liberties in his writing and stated some speculations as fact.

  • James LaBarre

    You need to read the comic at http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla
     

  • Anonymous

    And don’t forget to do a google search for “Topsy The Elephant”… That was one of the biggest spectacles Edison used to try and frighten the people on the dangers of AC current. You can even find the old grainy footage/film of it happening on YouTube.

    By the way, thanks for the great link!