39. Getting Shafted by Thomas Edison
With a record 1093 patents to his name, Thomas Edison, “The Wizard of Menlo Park”, is often described as the world’s most prolific inventors. In reality, most of Edison’s inventions were either by people he hired and whose inventions he then patented in his own name, or by strangers who had nothing to do with him, but whose inventions Edison simply stole.
Nikola Tesla was among those in the former category. Shortly after Tesla’s arrival in the US, Edison hired the brilliant but naïve new immigrant to redesign his electrical generators and perfect his light bulb, promising him $50,000 if he did so. Tesla did so, but when he asked for the $50,000 he had been promised, Edison laughed it off, telling him: “Tesla, you just don’t understand our American humor. When you become a full fledged American, you will appreciate an American joke”.