CHARLES PROTEUS STEINMETZ - ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING HERO

Charles Proteus Steinmetz is our feature on our regular segment, Electrical Engineering Hero.
Charles Proteus Steinmetz
A man with more than 200 Patents. Discovered the mathematics of hysteresis loss. His discoveries led to AC power superseding direct current (DC), during the current wars. Had reduced the very complex alternating current theory to, in his words, “a simple problem in algebra". And doing it all despite being barely 4 feet tall.

He is indeed a true marvel of the electrical engineering world.

Charles Proteus Steinmetz is truly a master, a true genius in its every sense.

Charles Proteus Steinmetz was born April 9, 1865. Steinmetz was born in Germany but emigrated to America to avoid persecution for his socialist beliefs. In 1883 Steinmetz enrolled at the University of Breslau to study mathematics, but also pursued unusually broad course of studies, including astronomy, biology, chemistry, electricity, physics, and political economy.

Steinmetz suffered from kyphosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine which he inherited from his father. As a result, he was unusually short in stature. Despite it, he was actively involved on some physical activities such as canoeing, swimming, biking, and other outdoor pursuits.

In 1892, he began working for the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York, where he stayed until his death in 1923,and it was there that his work revolutionized ac circuit analysis. Steinmetz derived mathematical theories to describe alternating current (AC), providing the basis for engineers to increase the efficiency of AC motors.

His discovery and application of the mathematics of hysteresis loss enabled engineers of the time to reduce magnetic loss in transformers. He also applied the mathematics of complex numbers to AC analysis and thus put engineering design of electrical systems on a scientific basis instead of a black art.

One story that is often associated and told about him, was that one time, Steinmetz was called in to examine a radio system that several engineers had looked at and could not fix. He examined the outside of several refrigerator sized cabinets and put an "X" on one and said "here is your problem". The company's technicians opened the cabinet and eventually found a bad coil. Steinmetz sent the company a bill for $1000 and the company sent it back saying that they do not pay un-itemized bills, and they didn't think that he did $1000 worth of labor. He sent it back itemized with $1.00, marking an "X", $999.

Charles Proteus Steinmetz, a real genius, a man ahead of his time, a true Electrical Engineering Hero.

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