Senior Sem Journal: Edison and Tesla

Our second Senior Seminar journal entry for the week comes from Dana Morrison (’12), also writing to introduce her topic, explain how she chose it, and reflect on challenges she expects to encounter in researching it. (By the way – Dana is continuing her family’s proud tradition of combining interests in history and theater. She starred in Electra last fall, and will appear in Urinetown later this month.)

Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)

RESEARCH QUESTION: Throughout history, the relationship between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla has been portrayed as tension-ridden and tumultuous and Edison came out the victor in terms of historical longevity. Is this because Edison had the right publicity team, better ideas and scientific practices, or because he had better connections?

It didn’t take me long to settle on this topic. I began assessing what my favorite areas of history were and then aimed at integrating my new found curiosity with history: why are some historical figures more memorable than others even if their work was not as memorable. By using these standards for finding a topic, I settled on the relationship between Edison and Tesla. In my education up to this point, I have learned little about Edison, but nothing about Tesla. I began pondering why that was the case? Was Tesla not as influential as Edison in his contributions to science or was he not easy to publicize and promote and therefore became a shadow under Edison?

In settling on this topic, however, I realize I have to be prepared to come to some dead ends in my research. Researching the lives of Edison and Tesla and even their contributions to science will be time consuming, but there are likely many books and journals published on the subject. But determining why Edison was more popular will be more difficult. Other people may have already hypothesized as to why Edison was more memorable, but I may not find an absolute conclusion through my research. I have yet to delve deeply into researching Edison and Tesla and may be pleasantly surprised at the information I find regarding their popularity. However, I am preparing myself to reflect more critically on the question and come to a conclusion based on sheer facts of their lives.

– Dana Morrison

<<Read the first entry in the series          Read the next entry in the series>>

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