They were both greatest among all. While Einstein changed the course of theoretical physics by his General Theory of Relativity, Tesla shaped the modern world with his high frequency alternating current. But did they really like each other? Let us find out.
In the poem “Fragments of Olympian Gossip” which was thought to have been composed in the late 1920’s Tesla criticised Einstein:
“Now a long haired crank, Einstein by name,
Puts on your high teaching all the blame.”
In 1935 when speaking with The New York Times, Tesla was critical of Einstein stating that his theory of relativity was “a beggar wrapped in purple whom ignorant people take for a king” and “a mass of error and deceptive ideas violently opposed to the teachings of great men of science of the past and even to common sense…”
Tesla continued “…the theory wraps all these errors and fallacies and clothes them in magnificent mathematical garb which fascinates, dazzles and makes people blind to the underlying errors… its exponents are very brilliant men, but they are metaphysicists rather than scientists. Not a single one of the relativity propositions has been proved.”
Tesla was 79 when he gave this interview. He had spent all his life working in the realm of pre-relativistic theories such as ether theory (according to which the space is filled with an invisible gaseous substance). Tesla assassinated general relativity in this interview because there was no clear evidence of it till then. Michelson - Morley experiment and Eddington's verification of the theory were considered uncertain and ambiguous. Ives-Stilwell wouldn't happen until 1938, and Rossi-Hall until 1941.
When Albert Einstein was asked how it felt to be the smartest man on Earth, he replied, “I wouldn’t know. Ask Nikola Tesla” It was short and to the point from Einstein. However, given the nature of their relationship this was just a clever, sarcastic remark and not a compliment.
Einstein and Tesla were the greatest minds in their respective fields yet there was a certain rivalry between the two, as there is between all great minds. That’s a big part of what drives us to be better and, in return, do great things for the world!