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KnudsonRegime t1_j8ux2ta wrote

Westinghouse was famous in his own time. Which, importantly, ended 30 years earlier than Tesla’s. It’s not really a very fair comparison.


pier4r OP t1_j8vff33 wrote

I strongly believe that the "being famous" is related to nowadays. everyone today knows Tesla but not the other guy.

If I read your comment correctly you want to say that Westinghouse was famous before Tesla in his prime time and then Tesla was famous later. Thus independently from the situation nowadays.


Cerulean_IsFancyBlue t1_j8vo9uh wrote

Not everyone knows Tesla.

There’s a huge awareness of the Tesla brand.

There’s a pop-culture, geek level awareness of Nicky Tesla, usually a distorted idea of him not strictly historical or biographical.

There are just also a bunch of other people that have no clue. Tesla has not yet reach the level of Napoleon or Einstein for example.

It’s also true that Westinghouse was a major brand itself. Westinghouse was a household name for lightbulbs for example, up until at least the early 2000’s. Westinghouse himself was not as colorful as Tesla, so, even when the brand was famous, there was definitely not as much of a cult of personality around the individual.

Long-term, I think Tesla, as a character has more staying power. His inventions were more spectacular (if less practical for the most part), and he benefits from the kind of retro futurism chic that Da Vinci does.

Add so often happens, popularity will come and go based on current events. Look at how Alexander Hamilton is having a resurgence among the USA founding fathers thanks to a hit Broadway musical. If the Tesla brand fades, and somebody makes a musical about Edison versus Westinghouse, maybe Westinghouse will take his place in the pantheon of historical figures with pop-culture credentials.


Potatoswatter t1_j8w5wku wrote

Besides lightbulbs, Westinghouse Electric was one of the biggest companies in the US in the postwar period. They made nuclear reactors and invested heavily in media.

We don’t hear the name much anymore because it was diluted so much by being a conglomerate. They pursued a lot of research and high tech ideas that didn’t pan out. There was no kernel to form the core of a new company, so the divisions were all sold off and renamed.


tampering t1_j8wnu2d wrote

They were the equal to GE in terms of the range of what they produced. They even had CBS to match GE's NBC.

A problem was that at the end Westinghouse's strongest business divisions (ones that bore the brand) were not consumer facing and strong units that were (like CBS) didn't really carry the Westinghouse name. So over time the brand faded.

In the 1990s, GE which actually grew stronger as a brand as it got rid of its consumer facing businesses like consumer electronics (radios and the like). To replace the consumer recognition, remember all those ads in the Jack Welch era promoting GE products that your average joe Blow would never buy (MRI machines and such). Sure they had to create that equipment but if they didn't advertise would you know what brand your doctor used for a medical imager.


buldozr t1_j8wfyhw wrote

Westinghouse is still in the nuclear power business. That does not get them much brand recognition in the general public, though.


Terminus0 t1_j8wzi8z wrote

WABTEC (which used to be known as Westinghouse Airbrake company, and now stands for Wabtec), which acquired GE Transportation recently is also a 800 lb gorilla in the train industry but most people don't know about it.


tfks t1_j8wh96g wrote

That's probably the issue. People retain fame, not companies. Up until recently, there wasn't really a company trying to capitalize on Tesla's name and it was wholly his own.


CrabWoodsman t1_j8xo5fu wrote

Not to mention how much attention Nikola Tesla got from pseudo-scientific interpretations of some of the ideas he posed. In the sensationalist world of fringe beliefs, he's said to have invented machines that can cause earthquakes and control the weather, and apparently had ideas about a system from global wireless power transfer. Possibly there's some truth to some of them, but odds are his ideas didn't quite pan out.

He's essentially a poster child for the "independent genius cut down and buried by industrial titans" perspective which is quite a romantic perspective for the conspiracy spaces on the internet. Not to say he wasn't treated poorly, but I also doubt he'd solved all the theoretical problems of wireless power transfer over great distance, for example. And if he had a machine that made earthquakes, wouldn't networks of seismometers detect aberrations?


RibeyeRare t1_j8w9j8h wrote

I had a Westinghouse Walkman back in the 90’s. It was yellow and was basically a ripoff of the Sony sports Walkman, but I loved that battery eater and took it everywhere.


SoLetsReddit t1_j8xxxm8 wrote

Siemens bought Westinghouse Electric's power generation business. I think in the late 90s. A few smaller subsidiaries came with it as well, can't remember maybe Electrowatt came with it?


Emu1981 t1_j99ds1x wrote

>There’s a pop-culture, geek level awareness of Nicky Tesla, usually a distorted idea of him not strictly historical or biographical.

And there are the nutters who think that Telsa created a way to provide free electricity to everyone wirelessly, that he developed a death ray and other sorts of kooky claims.


wittor t1_jaakhe8 wrote

I think that it is interesting to notice that nor Einstein nor newton were "sources" (historical Tesla is not the source for most part of the Tesla legend) of as many baseless stories as Tesla. Tesla motors did not created a hype over the name, the opposite is true.


Cerulean_IsFancyBlue t1_jadrze8 wrote

It’s hard to know without some survey data. I feel like Einstein is, in my culture, Ia widely recognized face and a man who is known for being very smart. If you drill down beyond that, with the average person, they might have an idea that he was smart, and also wise, which is why are you end up with so many sappy quotes attributed to Einstein that he never said. He is everybody’s genius, pacifist, kind grandpa with the crazy hair. In many ways, he fulfilled that role of eminent, trustable figure that Carl Sagan or Neil Degraase Tyson did/does later.

Tons of strange conspiracy stories just don’t make sense with Einstein. So he ends up with inspirational quotes instead.

I don’t think Newton is anywhere near as well, known by the average American. And when he is, it’s seldom more than the guy who “discovered” gravity, when an apple fell on him. You don’t hear about alchemy or calculus or astronomy or politics.

Tesla was a bit like Newton in America. Some people knew a lot about him. A ton of people who knew only one thing, probably do that. He did crazy experiments with electricity, like Tesla coils that were dramatic and cool in someway without knowing any of the details. He was a guy that was the epitome of not just alone genius but the unsuccessful doomed genius.

Edison was a revered figure who turn a heel turn in popular view and folks begin to weigh his politics, his greed, is intellectual property, theft, and such more than his stable of patents and financial success. Tesla made a good foil for that.

Even so, I think there’s not much comparison. Einstein is a figure on par with Napoleon in terms of recognition. Tesla, as a person, even as a highly fictionalized person, is a lot more obscure culturally.


MBH1800 t1_j8y3wo0 wrote

>everyone today knows Tesla

Tesla was less known for a long time, until a best-selling biography that centered around how he was very little known. Paradoxically, he became famous for not being famous, and for decades he was a household name always coupled with "but nobody knows who he is!"

Funny that another story now uses the same rhethoric about someone else.


aloz16 t1_j8xv01c wrote

I read a book about Tesla and found out about Westinghouse there, and have appreciation for him; I'd say whoever researches and studies Tesla knows, whoever doesn't, doesn't, which makes sense


frenchchevalierblanc t1_j911e1x wrote

30 years ago, almost nobody knew his story and he was not "famous" at all


jrhooo t1_j926ape wrote

realistically, I think a lot of "Tesla is so well known" (in the context of modern era, not his own time)

Is less about the popular interest in Tesla, and more about the popular fascination with "Hey, did you know Edison was actually a villain?!" articles.

Not because of any hate towards Edison specially, just the popularity of a "history got it wrong, and the hero is actually the villain" article


Blakut t1_j96dd80 wrote

outside the us tesla was and is well known and in europe, especially in eastern europe, he is tied to numerouw conspiracy theories since ages. This, plus most of the balkan nationalists trying to claim Tesla's origins are in their country.