The War For Alternating Current

Edison vs. Tesla vs. Westinghouse

Understanding AC

AC stands for alternating current and was developed towards the end of the 19th century. This is a system used to power electrical devices. Unlike DC, where current flows in only one direction, AC will flow in one direction and then the other. This is what powers most household appliances, such as the lamp in your home. Despite this, it is commonly debated who deserves credit for the creation of AC. So who are the candidates for this debate and how did they know each other?

The Bet...

Nikola Tesla was a brilliant, Serbian technician who immigrated to the United States. Upon arriving in America, Tesla landed a job working for Thomas Edison, who was at the time experiencing difficulties with DC. Edison approached Tesla with these problems and bet a large sum of money that Tesla could not fix it. Tesla was surprisingly able to work around Edison's problem and develop the basis of AC. After Tesla showed Edison his solution, Edison disregarded it and denied Tesla his prize. What a jerk.


After Edison rejected Tesla's idea, Tesla left Edison's company and continued working on his own inventions. However, Tesla was all but living in a cardboard box, as his finances were severely low. Without enough cash, Tesla was running out of supplies to continue working on his inventions. Salvation came in the form of George Westinghouse, who teamed up with Tesla and provided him with funding. Thus the "perfect partnership" was born and with Westinghouse's money, Tesla was able to perfect alternating current.

And The Winner Is...

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Nikola Tesla!

Tesla is the true creator of alternating current. Tesla first began working on AC based off of Edison's DC. Although Edison's DC was a guideline for AC, they are two opposite systems. In fact, Edison evidently wanted nothing to do with AC. Westinghouse on the other hand, liked the concept of AC and befriended Tesla. Westinghouse purchased many of Tesla's patents and funded his work, which made the perfection of AC possible. However, Westinghouse had no direct involvement with the work done to create AC. He only had ownership of Tesla's inventions that used AC. So in the end, it was Tesla who originally devised AC while studying Edison's concept of DC, then perfected it with funding provided by Westinghouse.