It’s tough to compare two of the most brilliant minds in human history, but in terms of who understood the earth more, I’d side with Nikola Tesla. Albert Einstein was more of a big-picture kind of guy, interested in explaining the inner workings of the universe/multiverse. While Einstein was preoccupied with how and why, Tesla was more interested in practical applications.
It is true that Einstein’s paper on mass-energy equivalence (the famed E=MC2) gave rise to the development of nuclear power and weaponry, but that was not his intention. He wanted to look at the cosmos and understand why it behaves the way it does (relativity, gravity, photoelectric effect). And ultimately, Einstein wanted to create a grand unified theory between quantum mechanics and what we now know as string theory. He wasn’t so much concerned with our planet alone, except for its part in the larger universe.
By contrast, Tesla was an engineer with the mind of a physicist. He looked at the way things worked and tried to figure out how to appropriate them into new inventions. While it is true that Thomas Edison was already working on direct current electricity (DC), he seemed unable or unwilling to adapt it to solve major problems with its safety. Tesla was able to survey what worked well and what didn’t, and invented alternating current (AC).
Tesla discovered that the earth itself could create power (a lesson we only really seem to be learning now), created a motor with rotating magnetic fields, and the foundation patents to everyday items like the remote control, lasers, and x-rays. He dreamt of robotics at a time when the very idea was at the limit of sci-fi writers’ imaginations. He also believed that energy could be transmitted wirelessly, and with little loss – which we can only hope comes to fruition one day soon. Of the two, Tesla was the one that really seemed to understand the vast resources of the earth and how best to use them.
This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions: