Who Is "They" in Tesla's "The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine."?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Member
Turkish, Kurdish, Persian
Many is the time that I have read Tesla's famous axiom, "The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.", but to whom "theirs" refers still eludes me.

Does it refer to "people", in general, "hoi polloi" if you will, behemoth industrialists, corporate companies, or administrations?

Best regards,

Arthur
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Like all pronouns, "theirs" is meaningless without a referent - all I can suggest is that you find the context in which this was said - that may (or may not) give an answer.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Some context:
    Tesla was speaking to an interviewer about the controversy over who actually invented the radio when he said:
    "Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine."
     

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    Member
    Turkish, Kurdish, Persian
    Some context:
    Tesla was speaking to an interviewer about the controversy over who actually invented the radio when he said:
    "Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine."

    Thanks Myridon for providing such an invaluable insight. I further looked into the interview, conducted by a Dragislav Petković for a Belgradian periodical, and got the following in Margaret Cheney's Tesla: Man Out of Time (Touchstone, 2001):

    [....]Pupin angrily said that he himself had been quite able to do the work and that Tesla “did not do anything for him.” [....] “During the lawsuit which I’ve instituted against Mr. Marconi for stealing my apparatus and drawings from the Patent Office,” Tesla allegedly continued, “Mr. Pupin, called to testify on my behalf as a countryman, went on the side of Mr. Marconi, who, after three years of legal battle was forced to admit under oath that the transmission of power to long distances is my invention.” Tesla paused, then added, “Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs, the future, for which I really worked, is mine.” [bolds and italics are mine].

    Purportedly Tesla's courteous censure was aimed at them, i.e. Mihajlo "Michael" Pupin, professor of electrical mechanics at Columbia, a fellow Serbian expatriate scientist, not unlike Tesla, and the notorious Guglielmo Marconi, as well as their coterie of associates; as a result of a long-lasting public and legal contention over the Radio patent.

    Note: Quotation reduced to comply with Rule 4. Cagey, moderator
     
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