We often hear of completely different people being related, perhaps distantly. For example, Barack Obama is related to Robert E. Lee, Harry S. Truman, Dick Cheney, Robert Duvall, and Warren Buffet, to name a few. Were Tesla cars named so as an ode to a long lost relative? Is Elon Musk related to Nikola Tesla?
No – there is no relation between Elon Musk and Nikola Tesla. Although, Tesla cars, and company, were named after the Electric Engineer as Nikola Tesla was the innovator behind AC current, which is the electricity that Tesla vehicles use in their motors.
Believe it or not, however, Musk is more of an Edison fan than that of Tesla. He appreciates that Edison came up with some great inventions and brought those to market to share with the world, and Tesla didn’t really do that. Those who know anything about Elon Musk know that he’s about bringing inventions to the world masses.
I could write an entire book on the infamous inventor, and in fact, several people have, but I just want to give a bit of an overview of the man, and how he ties in with Elon Musk.
Edison was born in 1847 and was home-schooled after teachers deemed him difficult. Much like Musk, Edison had a penchant for knowledge and would read as much as he could to soak this new knowledge in.
Thomas Edison held almost 1,100 patents and created many more inventions then that. He is most famous for being the inventor of the light bulb and motion pictures. However, he did not invent the first light bulb, he created the technology that would help bring it to the masses.
Another huge impact that Edison made on the world, ongoing today, is the creation of direct current, or DC electricity. And this is where he starts to tie-in with Elon Musk, and why Musk’s vehicles are known as Teslas and not Edisons.
Nikola Tesla was born in 1856, in what is now Croatia, and arrived in America in 1884 after gaining no interest in his induction motor. He had a letter of introduction with him to Thomas Edison, and as soon as Tesla arrived in America, he started working for the inventor whose DC electricity was becoming the standard in the country.
After a couple of months of working tightly side-by-side, the two parted ways after differences in opinions. Tesla would go on to work in a solo capacity as an inventor, having many of his inventions bought out from him, so he no longer held the rights to them.
Several of his inventions include Alternating Current (AC Electricity), Tesla Coil (used in radios), Niagara Falls Hydroelectric Power, X-ray Technology, and Remote Control Technology. All of which are still in use today.
Tesla would go on to receive over 700 patents in his life. After the successes from the above-mentioned inventions, and some others, he ended up going bankrupt, and became more and more eccentric as he got older. He died alone and destitute at the age of 86.
In an older edition of their website, Tesla Motors explains that they named the vehicles after the engineer due to the fact they use the induction motors and AC power transmission. Their current “About” section makes no mention of Nikola Tesla at all.
It wasn’t even Elon Musk who named the vehicles, or the company. Tesla Motors was founded in 2003, and Musk didn’t come into the picture until 2004. The company and vehicles were named by the founders, Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard.
Resurgence of History
Many young people these days would have no idea of who Nikola Tesla was if it wasn’t for Elon Musk and Tesla Motors. People may learn about Edison in school, but Tesla isn’t on many curriculums. From learning about the Automobile company, there is a whole new generation, or two, who are learning about a part of history that was laying dormant.
Elon Musk may not be related to Nikola Tesla, and he may not have named the car or company that bears his name, but he is responsible for people taking an interest in the vehicles and their lineage, including the eccentric engineer they were named after.