Born Oct 6 1846 - Died Mar 12 1914
Improvement in Steam-Power Brake Devices
Patent Number(s) re. 5,504
George Westinghouse invented a system of air brakes that made travel by train safe and built one of the greatest electric manufacturing organizations in the United States.
After briefly attending Union College he returned to his father's shop, where he developed and patented a rotary steam engine, a device for replacing derailed freight cars, and a railroad frog.
He then worked to develop a system of railroad brakes that would centralize control in the hands of the engineer. He was awarded the first of many air brake patents in 1869 and at the age of 22 organized the Westinghouse Air Brake Company.
Railway corporations almost universally adopted Westinghouse’s improved steam-powered air brakes after he patented the idea in 1872. Previous to Westinghouse’s invention railways employed brakemen to move from car to car and apply or release the brakes. This was a dangerous practice and highly inefficient because trains often could not stop before derailing or an accident. Today variations of Westinghouse’s original design are still used.
While Westinghouse did pioneer alternating current, he did fully believe in the efficiency and widespread use it represented over direct current. He bought the patent rights from Nikola Tesla in the 1880s, and Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company began wide scale introduction of the polyphase AC motor.