Friday, January 15, 2010

Charles Steinmetz was a dwarf

It was Charles P. Steinmetz who inspired, then hired Ernst Alexanderson in 1902. Steinmetz is the man who literally wrote the book on Alternating current, the basis for power. The book was "Theory and Calculation of Alternating Current Phenomena." It was published in 1900 by Electrical World & Engineer. The book was so revolutionary that it was republished in 1908 by Mcgraw Hill and then again in 1916. By the way, he was a dwarf, and a hunch back. (and a socialist)

That's him on the right, you might recognize the fellow on the left. His ideas and his research in alternating current are the basis for electrical lightning, our power grid, and power transmission. He worked for General Electric in the early 1900s. However, this was not his idea alone. His life's work was mostly comprised of expounding upon the work of Nikola Tesla. Tesla held the actual patent from 1889 on A.C. #413353.

Charles Proteus Steinmetz was born Carl August Rudolph in what we now call Poland. At the time it was still in a kingdom called Prussia. It became part of Germany in 1971. In 1888 his Socialist ideas suddenly got ledss popular and he fled to America. [Notice there how our tolerance of others was to our benefit.]

His first job was for Rudolf Eickemeyer in New York. Eickemeyer wasn't much of a scientist, but he was very driven. Eickemeyer was erratic, he built hat-making machines, worked on dynamos. In 1893 with Stephen D. Field, and Steinmetz he invented a system of electric street cars which he sold to GE. GE got some other odds and ends, prototypes, patents and even Mr. Steinmetz in the deal.

It was at General Electric where Steinmetz went from theory to application. He worked on arc lamps, and power transmission lines. He also worked on artificial lightning. Not lighting, lightning. Ultimately a lot of what he did was defining the mathematical foundation for A.C. Steinmetz created the term phasor for his simplified mathematical representation of an electricity waveform. Somehow after writing 13 books, it's this term for which he is most remembered. He died on October 26, 1923.