War of Currents, War of Words: Who Said It – Tesla or Edison?

By: Staff

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

Edison was green before it was hip, experimenting with wind energy and other off-the-grid options. He knew the best way to sell his lightbulbs and other inventions was to get power to as many people as possible, including those living outside of the major cities.

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

This philosophy goes a long way toward explaining Edison's prolific success.

"If he had a needle to find in a haystack he would not stop to reason where it was most likely to be, but would proceed at once, with the feverish diligence of a bee, to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search ... I was almost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90 percent of his labor."

This was Tesla's response to Edison's comment about perspiration; Tesla not only complained about Edison's methods, but also noted that Edison, “lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene.”

When Marconi began experimenting with radio, this inventor noted, "Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using 17 of my patents."

Despite this brash statement, Tesla would later regret his words when Marconi won the Nobel Prize in 1911. Though Tesla sued for patent infringement, the Supreme Court didn't resolve the matter in his favor until after his death.

“Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

Edison's commitment to create products that would sell left him with a reputation as both a brilliant inventor and a shrewd businessman.

“The practical success of an idea, irrespective of its inherent merit, is dependent on the attitude of the contemporaries.”

This highlights one difference often noted between the two inventors: Edison seemed to prioritize his work on the inventions he felt were most needed, while Tesla's creativity appeared to be driven more by abject curiosity.

“Money does not represent such a value as men have placed upon it. All my money has been invested into experiments with which I have made new discoveries enabling mankind to have a little easier life.”

Tesla may have wished to place just a little more value on money. At times, he was forced to take jobs as a ditch digger to make ends meet, and he eventually died penniless.

"The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease." 

With this 1902 quote, Edison predicted the modern HMO plan.

"When you become a full-fledged American, you will appreciate an American joke." 

After promising Tesla $50,000 if he could improve upon his inventions, Edison uttered this insulting statement when Tesla did just that. He instead offered Tesla a $10 per week raise, which Tesla declined and left. Tesla was originally born in Serbia and became an American citizen in 1891.

"Woman will ignore precedent and startle civilization with their progress.”

Tesla made this bold declaration in 1926, at a time when women had only recently won the right to vote. He also claimed that females would eventually become better educated than males thanks to the many years that women's minds had remained dormant while men did all the thinking.

“Personally, I enjoy working about 18 hours a day. Besides the short catnaps I take each day, I average about four to five hours of sleep per night. “

Edison needed very little sleep, and sometimes stayed up for days, surviving on short catnaps. Surprisingly, Tesla shared a similar ability to stay awake for long periods, and claimed to sleep just two or three hours per night in his later years.

“Most certainly, some planets are not inhabited, but others are, and among these there must exist life under all conditions and phases of development.”

Tesla not only believed in extraterrestrial life, but attempted to send radio signals to Mars.

"Through all the years of experimenting and research, I never once made a discovery. I start where the last man left off.… All my work was deductive, and the results I achieved were those of invention pure and simple."

Edison was also quoted as saying, "Everyone steals in commerce and industry. I've stolen a lot, myself. But I know *how* to steal!"

"Hell! There ain't no rules around here! We are tryin' to accomplish somep'n!"

This was said to be Edison's response to a new team member who asked if there were any laboratory rules he should observe.

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About This Quiz

Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla changed the way that we use energy. Though the two were focused on the same field, and even worked together for a time, they were also bitter rivals. See if you can match the quotes to the right inventor.

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