NEOSHO, Mo. —
Neosho High School science students on Friday heard Crowder College debaters discuss the relative merits of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.
The event was presented by the Crowder Debate Program and the Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology Center.
Tesla, the proponent of alternating current for delivery of electric power, was represented in the debate by Ryanne Peters, second-year public relations major. Edison, a proponent of direct current, was represented by William Wheeler, a second-year general studies major. Peters said Tesla was a scientist and a futurist, rather than the businessman that Edison was.
“Tesla was much more of a scientist, much more of a thinker,” Peters said. She said Tesla had a dream of providing free electricity, wirelessly, using alternating current.
“It’s a very simple system to use,” Peters said of alternating current.
Peters said Edison used unethical scare tactics and disinformation to try to make alternating current appear unsafe electrocuting animals, most famously Topsy, an elephant.
She said Tesla also tried to develop technologies that could eliminate war.
“He tried to make it an obsolete thing,” she said.
Wheeler said Edison was superior, with more than 1,000 patents, compared with Tesla’s 275.
He said Edison invented sound recording and motion pictures.
“No ‘Avengers’ movies or ‘Batman’ without Edison,” Wheeler said.
Edison also invented the electric light bulb, Wheeler said.
“We would just be talking in a dark room,” he said.
Wheeler said Edison came up with practical solutions, whereas Tesla was an impractical dreamer.
“He was the quintessential American businessman,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said without direct current, one cannot store electric power.
“Thomas Edison was the person, not Nikola Tesla, who was ahead of his time,” Wheeler said.
After the debate, the students viewed energy experiments at the MARET Center.
Johnathan stet McDonald, a 15-year-old freshman at Neosho High School, said the debate was interesting, because he had never heard of Tesla. He also enjoyed the experiments.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s great to get younger people interested in science.”