Mohammad Al-Ubaydli’s blog

On being Westinghoused

Posted in People / organisations by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on February 5, 2008

I must say I succumbed to the stereotype about scientists and inventors and always had a mental image of Edison as a self-less innovator that just wanted to invent things for mankind to use. Check out this quote from the book “The Big Switch“:

The new alternating-current systems met with considerable resistance at first. Because they operated at much higher voltages than existing systems, they stirred fears about safety among many in the public. Edison, still convinced of the superiority of his own direct-current system, tried to magnify those fears by launching a grisly public relations campaign aimed at having high-power AC systems banned. Teaming up with an electrician named Harold Brown, he helped stage a series of public execuitions of animals, including dogs, cows, and horses, using the current from AC dynamos. He even convinced the New York legislature to purchase an AC generator – from Westinghouse, which had bought Tesla’s patents and become the biggest promoter of AC system – for use in the electrocution of death-row prisoners. On August 6, 1890, an as murderer named William Kemmler became the first man to die in New York’s new electric chair. Although the next day’s newspaper headline – “Kemmler Westinghoused” – must hav epleased Edison, his fearmongering failed to halt the spread of the technologically superior AC systems.”

I must say I am impressed at this – it is much nastier than Steve Ballmer’s “Linux is cancer” quote.


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