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Nikola Tesla: Research in High Frequency Phenomena, 1894

Pure vs. Applied Science

Tesla refused further lucrative offers which did not meet his idealistic purposes and took the consequences. He returned to the design of turbines and by 1910 had models available. However, his entry competed with machinery which had been developed in the interval since Niagara when Tesla was occupied with his Colorado and Long Island enterprises. Tesla's secretive nature and stubbornness caused problems and he met an audience which was not inclined to cooperate. The Tesla turbine, a machine of great ingenuity and promise, did not succeed.

In 1912, the Nobel Committee announced that Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were the recipients of the Physics Prize; instead, the prize went to Gustav Dalen. Details of the reversal are unclear but it is known that Tesla refused the prize (and the $20,000 that came with it). Tesla differentiated between inspirational discoverers such as himself and methodical improvers such as Edison; he gave greater value to the former. Tesla was a pure scientist and Edison an applied scientist, and they should not be in combination. Tesla was persuaded to accept the 1917 Edison Medal from the American Institute of Electrical Engineers but made his disinterest noticeable.