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 George Westinghouse

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PostSubject: George Westinghouse   14/11/2010, 12:22 pm

George Westinghouse was aprolific inventor who influenced the course of history by enabling thegrowth of the railroads through his inventions and by promoting the useof electricity for power and transportation. As an industrial manager, George Westinghouse'sinfluence on industrial history is considerable, having formed anddirected more than 60 companies to market his and others' inventionsduring his lifetime. His electric company became one of the greatestelectric manufacturing organizations in the United States, and hisinfluence abroad was evident by the many companies he founded in othercountries. Thehydroelectric development of Niagara Falls by George Westinghouse in1896 inaugurated the practice of placing generating stations far fromconsumption centers. The Niagara plant transmitted massive amounts ofpower to Buffalo, New York, over 20 miles away. With Niagara,Westinghouse convincingly demonstrated both the general superiority oftransmitting power with electricity rather than by mechanical means(the use of ropes, hydraulic pipes, or compressed air had also beenproposed) and the transmission superiority at that time of alternatingcurrent (ac) over direct current (dc). Niagara set a contemporarystandard for generator size, and was the first large system supplyingelectricity from one circuit for multiple end-uses (railway, lighting,power).To solve the problem of sending electricity over long distances, George Westinghouse developed a device called a transformer.The transformer allowed electricity to be efficiently transmitted overlong distances. This made it possible to supply electricity to homesand businesses located far from the electric generating plant. Brief Biography of George Westinghouse Born on October 6, 1846, in Central Bridge, NY, George Westinghouse worked in his early years in his father's shopsin Schenectady where they manufactured agricultural machinery. Heserved as a private in the cavalry for 2 years during the Civil Warbefore being made Acting Third Assistant Engineer in the Navy in 1864.He attended college for only 3 months in 1865, dropping out soon afterobtaining his first patent on October 31, 1865 for a rotary steam engine.Later, he invented an instrument which replaced derailed freight carson the train tracks and started a business to manufacture his invention. In April of 1869, he obtained a patent for one of his most important inventions, the air brake(patent #re. 5,504). This device enabled trains to be stopped withfail-safe accuracy by the locomotive engineer for the first time andwas eventually adopted on the majority of the world's railroads.Previously, train accidents were frequent since brakes had to beapplied manually on each car by different brakemen following a signalfrom the engineer. Seeing potential profit in the invention,Westinghouse organized the Westinghouse Air Brake Companyin July of 1869 with himself acting as president. He continued to makemany changes in his air brake design and later developed the automaticair brake system and the triple valve. Hisindustry expanded as he opened companies in Europe and Canada. In theUnited States, he expanded into the railroad signaling industry byorganizing the Union Switch and Signal Company. In this company,devices based on his own inventions and the patents of others weredesigned to control the increased speed and flexibility which was madepossible by the invention of the air brake. Westinghouse also developedan apparatus for the safe transmission of natural gas. Westinghouse saw the potential for electricity and formed the Westinghouse Electric Company in 1884, later known as the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. He obtained exclusive rights to Nikola Tesla'spatents for a polyphase system of alternating current in 1888,persuading the inventor to join the Westinghouse Electric Company. Therewas opposition from the public to the development of alternatingcurrent electricity. Critics, including direct current proponent Thomas Edison,argued that it was dangerous and a hazard to health. This idea wasemphasized in the public mind by New York state's adoption ofalternating current electrocution for capital crimes. Undeterred,Westinghouse proved the viability of alternating current electricity byhaving his company design and provide the lighting system for theentire Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Westinghouse'scompany took on another industrial challenge when it was awarded acontract with the Cataract Construction Company in 1893 to build 3 hugegenerators for harnessing the energy of the Niagara Falls water intoelectrical energy. Installation on this project began in April of 1895,and by November of 1895 all 3 generators were completed. A year later,engineers at Buffalo closed the circuits that finally completed theprocess to bring power from Niagara.Westinghouse made furtherindustrial history by acquiring exclusive rights to manufacture theParsons steam turbine in America and by introducing the firstalternating current locomotive in 1905. The first major application ofalternating current to railway systems was in the Manhattan Elevatedrailways in New York, and later in the New York subway system. Thefirst single-phase railway locomotive was demonstrated in the EastPittsburgh railway yards in 1905, and soon after, the Westinghousecompany began the task of electrifying the New York, New Haven andHartford Railroad with the single-phase system between Woodlawn, NY,and Stamford, CT. At the turn of the century, the various Westinghouse companieswere worth about $120 million and employed approximately 50,000workers. By 1904, there were 9 manufacturing companies of his in theU.S., 1 in Canada, and 5 in Europe. Thefinancial panic of 1907 caused Westinghouse to lose control of thecompanies he had founded. In 1910, he found his last major concern, theinvention of a compressed air spring for taking the shock out ofautomobile riding. By 1911, he had severed all ties with his formercompanies. Spendingmuch of his later life in public service, Westinghouse showed signs ofa heart ailment by 1913 and was ordered to rest by doctors. Afterdeteriorating health and illness confined him to a wheelchair, he diedon March 12, 1914. With a total of 361 patents to his credit, his lastpatent was received in 1918, four years after his death.
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