A Life of George Westinghouse
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Life of George Westinghouse In the last part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century, George Westinghouse made pioneering advances in transportation and the manufacture of power, with his work on the air brake, power signaling and switching, the friction draft gea. Specifications Series Title Business Biographies. Customer Reviews. Write a review.
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His rotary steam engine proved impractical, but the car-replacer he designed to restore derailed cars to their tracks was successfully marketed. Westinghouse laid the basis for his fortune when he patented his first air-brake invention in and organized the Westinghouse Air Brake Company.
A number of patented improvements followed, including the truly revolutionary automatic air brake for trains He also worked to make all air-brake apparatus standardized and interchangeable and later developed a complete signal system for railroads. He formed the Union Switch and Signal Company in Early in the s Westinghouse applied his knowledge of compressed-air problems to the new natural-gas industry and patented several devices for the transmission and measurement of natural gas.
This work in turn enabled him to comprehend the problems involved in distributing electrical power.
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An early convert to alternating current, he acquired European patents covering single-phase alternating-current transmission and organized the Westinghouse Electric Company in The company soon acquired the rights to a new polyphase alternating-current motor designed by Nikola Tesla and thus was equipped to produce power for both lights and motors. Westinghouse successfully advocated the alternating-current system, and in the early s he received contracts to light the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and to develop a power system at Niagara Falls.
An incredibly prolific inventor, Westinghouse obtained an average of more than a patent a month during the s. Among his most significant inventions were the friction gear, geared turbine, and air springs.
George Westinghouse's time in the civil war
He lost control of the Westinghouse Electric and the Westinghouse Machine companies in the business crisis of , but his reputation for integrity and wisdom was such that he was one of three trustees appointed to reorganize the mammoth Equitable Life Assurance Company after its collapse at the same time. After serving in the Union Army and Navy, he patented several devices, particularly for railroads.
However, the Civil War forced George to put his experiments on hold, and he served in the Union Army and later, as an assistant engineer for the Navy. Although he tried his hand at college, he dropped out just months later in when he received his first patent for a rotary steam engine invention. Westinghouse's major contributions started with inventions revolving around railroad safety, most notably his compressed air brake system patented in that functioned as a fail-safe to halt trains.
Westinghouse's air brake was a replacement for the troublesome manual braking method and eventually became a standard of safety not only in America but also in Canada and Europe. After establishing the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, Westinghouse turned to improve rail signaling devices through the formation of the Union Switch and Signal Company. He also invented a rotary steam engine, which helped derailed freight trains get back onto their tracks, as well as a "frog" device that allowed trains to travel across connecting rails.
Westinghouse's interest in alternating current technology came after working on natural gas control and distribution projects, in which he invented a valve that helped take high-pressure gas and bring it down to low-pressure use. From that experience, he turned his attention to electricity, believing that a similar approach could distribute power for widespread use.
George Westinghouse's Influence on Electricity
Confident that developing alternating current AC technology — converting high voltage to low through a transformer — was the way of the future, Westinghouse founded the Westinghouse Electric Company in It was a bold move, considering many heavy investors in the power industry, namely competitor Thomas Edison , were championing the direct current system. Edison and his supporters waged a smear campaign against the AC system, telling the public that it was dangerous and a health hazard.
The fierce competition between Edison and Westinghouse over electricity spilled into a legal battle called The Seven Years War.