Born in 1856 in what is now Croatia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Nikola Tesla was the son of an Orthodox pope. Passionate about science, he was received in 1875 at the Polytechnic School of Graz, Austria, where he studied mechanics, physics and mathematics for three years. We were then at a time when inventions resulting from the applications of electricity abounded. In 1878, after having invented the multiplex telegraph and the phonograph, Thomas Edison had perfected the incandescent bulb which revolutionized the history of lighting.
Thomas Edison, “self-made man”, genius handyman, quickly established himself as a formidable capitalist
The example of Thomas Edison is particularly enlightening because it shows that this period was also crucial for the development of applied industrial research, based on an alliance between scientists and entrepreneurs to conquer new markets. Edison was a self-made man who started out as a telegrapher. A brilliant do-it-yourselfer, he quickly established himself as a formidable capitalist by creating a company that had a research laboratory, within which some sixty salaried researchers worked.
After working as an engineer at the Central Telegraph Office in Budapest, Nikola Tesla was recruited by a subsidiary of the Edison company in Paris. It was then that he designed an induction motor using alternating current. In 1884, the director of the Parisian subsidiary offered him to join Edison in New York, to help him improve the quality of the electricity network of the city which knew misfires repeat. In his letter of recommendation, the director did not hesitate to write to Edison: “I know only two great men on this earth and you are one of them. The second is this young man”. Arrived in New York, Nikola Tesla proposed to adopt the alternating current, to solve the problems of the New York network. But Edison categorically refused (…).
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