Everybody Steals in Commerce and Industry. I've stolen a lot myself. But i know
how to steal. ~ Thomas Edison

When researching The famed American inventor Thomas Edison, it's common to find mention of he and Nikola Tesla's rivalry. This rivalry, which sprung up between a clash of interests between the two in DC / AC current (Direct Current and Alternating Current) power, eventually made the two men archenemies. However, this is generally all that is told of the rather unusual and abusive relationship between the two inventors.

In 1883, Nikola Tesla had been working for the European division of Edison's international business, the Continental Edison company. Charles Batchelor, the manager of Tesla's workplace and close friend of Edison himself, was very impressed with Tesla's work and encouraged him to go work directly under Edison in America. With a personal letter of introduction to Edison in hand, Tesla arrived at Edison's lab and was hired on the spot.

Tesla worked grueling 18-hour days. He spent a significant amount of time hammering out the ineffeciencies in Edison's dynamos (motors used to turn mechanical energy into DC current; see Dynamo writeup). After many hours of such work, Tesla approached Edison and offered to completely redesign them from scratch. Edison laughed at this, thinking it a monstrously enormous task that would take Tesla many years to make any progress on. Edison challenged Tesla "There's fifty thousand dollars in it for you - if you can do it."

Tesla accepted, and after a year of constant labor, produced a vastly superior version of the Dynamo, complete with automatic controls. He presented the new design to Edison and asked for his payment. Edison was greatly pleased with his work, but refused to pay him what he had agreed, saying that Nikola didn't "understand our American Humor." Tesla did, however, recieve a small raise in pay, as Edison and his company walked away with an improved Dynamo as well as the credit, patent and all the profits that came with it.

Shortly after this, Tesla requested to begin work on his AC generator, which Edison refused. Edison believed that AC power was dangerous and more trouble than it was worth, and refused to allow Tesla to work on it in his lab. Tesla wound up turning to George Westinghouse, another of Edison's enemies that owned his own electric company, and fully funded Tesla's efforts to create the AC power system that is in use today. Edison was furious, and instead decided to sabotage Tesla's efforts. After Tesla had sucessfully designed his AC generator, Edison sent dozens of scientists out to claim to have laid the groundwork for Nikola's work, which started a large mess for the rights to the patent, in which Nikola's name eventually got lost among the shuffle of the other scientists' claims.

Eventually Westinghouse's company was bought out by J.P. Morgan (ironically, one of Edison's closest friends) and was unable to pay Tesla the full royalties that he had deserved due to money problems. Tesla recieved $216,000 for his work on AC power - a large sum - but not even close to their real value at the time, which was close to $12 million.

Nikola now had no place to continue his work, and had all his previous works either stolen or bought for measly amounts of money - a situation that kept him living in poverty for the remainder of his life. He continued to work on new inventions, however, realizing that even without a lab or large amounts of money to throw around, the benefit of mankind and development of technology were worth the expense. Shortly after the demise of Westinghouse's company, Nikola produced the outline for the modern radio. While credit for the invention of the radio went to Guglielmo Marconi, Tesla had been the first scientist to provide the basic parts for the radio, as well as a schematic to build a radio device from them - Marconi simply stole it from Tesla and built it first. Once again, Tesla got no credit for it, despite being the real "Father of Radio."

Most people don't realize the true story behind Edison. He had been quoted as saying that he had no need to be a mathematician, because he could always hire one. While Nikola Tesla was a real scientist and inventor, Edison was really just an extremely innovative buisnessman - looking at current social needs and scientific trends, then hiring able people to do the work and taking the credit for his own company. Edison was, in fact, a master of the 7th of the 48 Laws of Power - Get Others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit. While this is in itself a highly unethical thing to do, it paid off for Edison - Tesla's name is not anywhere near as well-known as Edison's as a result of Edison's slyness and backstabbery - but today, Edison is known as the foremost American Inventor despite these questionable tactics.

Sources: http://www.mecfilms.com/dna/indev/features/patent.htm, The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene