Charles Proteus Steinmetz
Born Apr 9 1865 - Died Oct 26 1923
System of Distribution by Alternating Currents
Patent Number(s) 533,244
In 1893, Steinmetz joined the newly organized General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York, serving as consulting engineer until his death.
Steinmetz's first important research was on the phenomenon of hysteresis, by which power is lost because of magnetic resistance. This research led him directly to a study of alternating current, which could eliminate hysteresis loss in motors. The difficulty was that there was really no theory of alternating current by which the electrical engineer could be guided. Steinmetz set out to remedy this deficiency. During the next 20 years he prepared a series of masterful papers and volumes which reduced the theory of alternating current to order.
Steinmetz's last research was on lightning, which threatened to disrupt the new AC power lines. Here again he made fundamental contributions.
Without Charles Steinmetz's development of theories of alternating current, the expansion of the electric power industry in the United States in the early 20th century would have been impossible, or at least greatly delayed.
Born in Breslau, Germany, Steinmetz early on displayed brilliancy that was to remain with him throughout his life. He received a good primary and secondary education and in 1883 entered the University of Breslau, where he devoured books on every subject from mathematics and economics to literature and medicine. In 1888 he wrote an outspoken editorial criticizing the government, however, and was forced to flee Germany to escape arrest. He went first to Zurich, then, in the late spring of 1889, arrived as a teenage passenger in the United States.