How Elon Musk Really Feels About Nikola Tesla

Elon Musk has few rivals when it comes to 21st-century technological innovation. His company’s advancements in transportation represent enormous leaps forward, with Musk’s “Tesla” vehicles being among the first commercially available, all-electric options for consumers. Meanwhile, his venture into spaceflight via SpaceX — though challenged by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin program — remains at the cutting edge of commercial space flight. Not all of Musk’s projections pan out as envisioned, and he has faced several setbacks and controversies, ranging from bankruptcy to messy divorce proceedings. But so far, Musk has managed to overcome these hurdles and continue marching toward his company’s end goal of colonizing Mars.

Given what he has accomplished on the back of electricity, it seems obvious that Musk’s best-known company is named after one of the most famous pioneers in the field, Nikola Tesla. Tesla is remembered as an engineering genius whose contributions to the world were hampered by the cutthroat business practices of Thomas Edison. But as reported by Forbes, Musk didn’t actually choose the name of his company — he bought the rights to it after its founding —  and comments from the billionaire show that he is not quite as enamored with the inventor as you might expect.

Nikola Tesla was not as big an influence on Elon Musk as Thomas Edison

Elon Musk has made clear his admiration for both Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, seeing them both as pivotal figures in the history of electric power. Musk especially has a lot to thank Tesla for, as his cars make use of the AC power their namesake made a reality. As far as whom he personally takes the most inspiration from, however, Tesla takes a backseat (via Big Think). While it is a fair point that many of Edison’s patents were acquired through the labor of his employees, he was unequivocally a master of marketing. 

Tesla attempted innovation through a variety of different projects but reached the end of his life destitute and in mental decline after failing to successfully establish a relationship with Edison’s rival, George Westinghouse. Meanwhile, the inventions Edison is credited with, wrongfully or not, became accessible to the public through his business savvy. It is because of this that Musk even draws comparisons between Edison and other figures like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Ultimately, it is the objective success of Edison that left a lasting impression on him.

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