Volume 13, No. 2
April 2001

Mercurial Matters

Letters to the Editor

SHOT in Silicon Valley

Breakfast in California

Changing of the Guard

The World Wide Web and the Transformation of Internet Domain Names

News of Members

Computer Museum Reminder

IEEE 2001 Conference on History of Telecommunications

Tesla and Edison

Book Review:
The Sociology of Invention: A review of Silicon Sky

News of the Field:
Marconi Collection

Lincoln Lab's 50-Year Review

Media Ecology Conference

Scientific and Technical Information Systems Historical Meeting

Telecomm Museum and Website, SHOT website

Superman and the Case of the Disappearing Public Telephone

Contact Us

mercurians back button


Tesla & Edison

Why has Nikola Tesla become a cult figure and Thomas Edison has not? Both men demonstrated remarkable inventive genius, and both pioneered in the field of electricity. Their personal and technical styles were dramatically different, of course, and their reputations differ accordingly. Every American schoolchild has learned of Edison for over a century, and many admire him. But those who carry the flame of Tesla’s memory do so with a passion that often startles Edison’s fans.

A. David Wunsch raised this question. His essay “Misreading the Supreme Court: A Puzzling Chapter in the History of Radio” appeared in the November 1998 Antenna and aroused a good bit of reaction, some of which we printed thereafter. Only recently a devotee to Tesla’s memory sent your faithful editors a message, asking that it be forwarded to David and thereby prompting David’s query.

Comparing Tesla with Edison, or Antonio Meucci with Alexander Graham Bell, could tell us a lot about how historical memories evolve. Moreover, how do technologies and innovators become cultural icons and part of our cultural legacies? David suggests, and we agree, that this set of questions could frame a fascinating SHOT session.