Sunday, October 2, 2016

Chapter Review: Edison vs. Westinghouse: An Epic Struggle for Power

This chapter is reviewed from Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America by Glenn Beck with Kevin Balfe and Hannah Beck, Threshold Editions, New York, 2013.
The struggle between alternating current and direct current was significant in our country, and determined how the power grid in the United States would go.  Nikola Tesla actually worked for Thomas Edison, and had developed things for him using alternating current.  However Edison was totally committed to direct current, so in the end Tesla left and joined George Westinghouse.  Alternating current had some advantages over direct current.  It could be transported over longer distances without losing as much power.  This made it so the lines used less copper in transmission.  At the time the price of copper was over inflated, which was a hindrance to Edison.
However Edison had developed citywide systems based on direct current.  He wasn't going to give up the power grid without a fight.  He tried to paint alternating current as being dangerous.  It was the spark of Edison which used alternating current for the electric chair.  He contended that many people would die if the grid went to alternating current.  He publicly proclaimed the use of the electric chair.  However when it was used it wasn't quite as effective as believed, as it took several attempts to kill the condemned.  Westinghouse had his opening.  The pinnacle was being able to light the World's Fair Columbian Exposition in New York.  After successfully bidding on this, at a price half that of Edison.  From there Westinghouse won the Niagara Falls contract, using Tesla's advances.
In the end, Edison would lose control of his power company, and would focus on film and mining adventures.  His company became General Electric.  Westinghouse would eventually also lose ownership of his company to bankers, but he continued in other interests as well and controlled many patents.

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