The war of currents

The word “WAR” is always enough to imagine a mass killings, brutality, inhumanity, destructions and blighted cities. We may imagine melted corpses of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The memories of martyrdoms of 1965, 1971, 1998 and even of the war of terrorism are not the part of our past; where humanity has observed brutal massacre.

Keeping all this aside, Im going to discuss a separate topic “The War of Currents”; just a feud between two notable scientists apparently. But encloses a large number of painful stories of its destructive effects (on both humans and animals), though I have no enough room to explain those stories.

The War of Currents, more briefly, was basically the conflict between superiority of alternating current versus direct current. The both concepts were being strongly argued by two famous scientists, namely Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, the most egoistic personalities as afterwards they denied to receive a shared Noble Prize and rejected the handsome prize money. Nikola Tesla was parentally a Serbian American. After his education, in 1882, he headed for France and worked for Continental Edison Company. However, after a brief interval of two years, he relocated to New York and was hired by Thomas Edison for Edison Machine Works. Within just a single year, he showed all his abilities that nature had inculcated him and he was offered to redesign the DC generators of the company.

In return, he claimed to design a much better and efficient generator in both, service and economy. Edison promised $50,000 for this work but clearly u-turned, when Tesla done what he claimed, saying that; “When you become a full-fledged American you will appreciate an American joke”. So, Tesla parted away and eventually founded Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing, funded by two businessmen and supported by another scientist, George Westinghouse. This was the start of The War of Currents.

After resigning from Edison Machines, Tesla put all efforts to claim AC as the better source of energy as compared to DC. As DC was distance limited and restricted to use within 2.4 km radius of generating station. While the AC overcame this problem enlightening the entire Buffalo New York by Niagara Falls. Edison, not wanting to lose the royalties he was earning from his direct current patents, began a campaign to discredit alternating current. He spread misinformation saying that alternating current was more dangerous, even going so far as to publicly electrocute stray animals using alternating current to prove his point. The matter didnt remain limited to strayed animals rather the battle went to an absurd level when, in 1887, a board appointed by the state of New York consulted Edison on the best way to execute condemned prisoners. Edison, as his first and the last chance to acclaim his points, introduced electric chair that was used to electrocute the unfortunate William Kemmler.

An awful journey to final destination, through cruel and unusual electrocution, reported by witnesses, George Westinghouse and media of that time. A very dreadful story to tell but its another topic altogether.

Turning to the topic; the Chicago Worlds Fair, also known as the Worlds Columbian Exposition, took place in 1893. Where General Electric bid claimed to electrify the fair using Edisons direct current for $554,000, but lost to George Westinghouse, who said he could power the fair for only $399,000 using Teslas alternating current.

That same year, the Niagara Falls Power Company decided to award Westinghouse, who had licensed Teslas polyphase AC induction motor patent, the contract to generate power from Niagara Falls. And on Nov. 16, 1896, the entire New York was lit up by the alternating current from Niagara Falls. By this time General Electric had decided to jump on Muhammad Umar Farooq the alternating current train, too. And in this way, the War almost tended towards the Nikola Tesla and won by AC currents.

But even now-a-days computers, LEDs, solar cells and electric vehicles all run on DC power. And since DC is more stable, companies are finding ways of using high voltage direct current (HVDC) to transport electricity long distances with less electricity loss.

So, although the alternating currents won the war that time but the flames of the war are still alive and have entered in post-war zone. But expectedly, now neither DC nor AC is favourite for the war rather both will work on parallel lines.

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