Tesla and Westinghouse
In my first high-school class in trigonometry, the teacher asked
how many of us were going to become electrical engineers. I raised
my hand. At that time I knew how to repair vacuum-tube radios, but
I could not understand how triangles have anything to do with electricity.
I failed to become an engineer, but I can still explain why
sine and cosine functions are important in electrical engineering.
However, acording to my Serbian friend,
Date: Tue, 1 Jul 2003 11:47:51 +0100
From: Aleksandar Mikovic
Subject: Nikola Tesla
Dear Prof. Kim,
I hope you remember me, I was a graduate student in the theoretical high-energy group at Maryland from 1984 till 1990. I am writing you to point out some inaccuracies in your presentation of Nikola Tesla on the robot page. First, he was a Serb, who was born in what is today Croatia, in the family of a Serbian orthodox church priest. Tesla is one of the most illustrious Serbs (he appeared on banknotes, and every Serb knows who he was). Therefore he cannot be a Croatian, nor a Hungarian. He was educated in Graz, Austria, and he worked for one year in the telegraph company in Budapest. For more info see http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_Tesla.
Whenever I meet Serbians and Croatians, I mention Tesla's name, and they become very happy. I tell them I have this Tesla page and ask them whether they like to be on this page. Here are some of their photos.
Tesla came to the United States in 1884. After he was cleared from the immigration office in New York, he went to Thomas Edison to work in his electric company. He explained his AC ideas to Edison, but Edison could not see how light-bulbs could work on AC. He thought the bulbs would constantly blink. Edison could not understand how motors could work on AC. Furthermore, Edison thought high voltage was quite dangerous.
Nikola Tesla was the right person to work for Westinghouse. The idea of transformer at the text-book level exited at that time, but putting it to work in the power distribution system was another matter. It required a large amount of capital investment as well as constant technological innovations. Thomas Edison was as influential as Einstein, and he was thoroughly against AC. However, Westinghouse was strong enough to overcome these difficulties.
Yes, Tesla and Westinghouse established the electric power distribution system, but equally important is the information distribution system. On this subject, I have already written two articles. One was about Marconi and Sarnoff on wireless communication and the other was about von-Neumann's electronic computer.
I would like to say more about George Westinghouse. He was born in Central Bridge (near Schenectady, New York) in 1846 and died and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 1914. He was a Civil-War veteran. He is well known to those who lived in the Pittsburgh area like myself, but is a forgotten scientist in the rest of the world. His name was and is known from the Westinghouse Electric Company he founded in 1885, which lasted for 100 years. His problem was that, whenever he had new ideas, he did not publish them. He put them into work. He was holding 361 patents set up more than 60 companies.
His first major invention was the brake system for trains using compressed air. He did not stop there. He continued his research pressure distributions. Your car's brake system is based on liquid, but it has a pressure equalizer. You do not know this because this part seldom breaks down. The concept of pressure equalization came from Westinghouse. These days, there is a branch of physics called "fluid dynamics." This branch was created by Westinghouse initially for engineering need.
On the business side, his scope was not restricted to the U.S. territory. This was an exceptional quality among isolationist Americans at his time. He developed a series of car models and manufactured in France. There are Westinghouse cars in museums. Among his friends outside the United States was Czar Nicholas II of Russia. He was of course interested in expanding his business to Russia. The Czar needed one million additional infantry rifles to equip his army during World War I. Westinghouse decided to supply those rifles, made an arrangement with Springfield Rifle Company in Massachusetts. The rifles were delivered by his company in 1915, one year after his death. This was his gift to the Czar, as well as a business investment, but he was not smart enough to foresee the revolution in 1917.
The Russian and Soviet armies used Mosin-Nagant rifles from 1891 until the Kalashnikov model was introduced in 1947. They produced many more during World War II. The Mosin-Nagant was the longest-serving rifle in the world history, and is familiar to many people. You will be surprised to hear that I know how to to operate this machine. It is my pleasure to show you one of those one-million Mosin-Nagants carrying the white engraving of "Westinghouse" and its serial number. This photo was taken at Westinghouse Museum in Wilmerding (near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Click here for a larger image.
I would like to thank Professor Lev Okun (ITEP-Moscow) for pointing out a number of typographical errors in the original version of this article.
Y. S. Kim (30 June 2003)
R. Stephen Berryis the James Franck Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. Here is his home page. On October 12, 2010, he sent me the following e-mail about the first AC power plant built in Colorado. It is a pleasure to add his e-mail to this webpage.
Dear Professor Kim,
I enjoy your pages on various important and famous physicists. I thought I could pass on one little bit of information that might interest you regarding Tesla and Westinghouse. They collaborated with a local banker named Lucien Nunn in Telluride, Colorado, to build the first commercial AC power plant.
The plant, in Ames, Colorado, south of Telluride and just west of Ophir, still stands and still operates. It generated 5 megawatts, using two water-driven generators. The first of the original two was replaced after a few years. When we last visited the plant last Summer, it was being refurbished, apparently to make it more tourist-friendly. Among the various URLs with information about the plant, you might try this one: http://bobalden.com/courses/eps/ames.htm
Click here for other interesting articles.
copyright@2003 by Y. S. Kim, unless otherwise specified.
Click here for his home page.