I recently had some spare time to review some of my books on the history of electric power. Here is my list of some of the most influential people in the history of electric power.
Faraday – Michael Faraday was one of the greatest experimental scientists ever. Among other findings, he discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction , in which a changing magnetic field induces a voltage in a loop of wire. This led to the eventual development of the ac transformer, generator, and motor that we know today. The measurement of capacitance, the Farad, was named after him.
Tesla – Nikola Tesla expanded the principles established by Faraday, and performed work in the areas of electromagnetic fields, communications, and radio. He worked for both Edison and Westinghouse at different points in his career. His work on rotating magnetic fields led to the eventual development of the induction motor. Working for George Westinghouse, he developed patents for equipment in the modern polyphase ac power system. The measurement of magnetic flux density, the tesla, was named in his honor. Tesla died alone and in poverty in the New York City in 1943.
Edison – The Wizard of Menlo Park, Edison’s inventions of the light bulb and the phonograph were among his 1,093 US patents. He was the driving force behind the creation of the first investor-owned utility (the Edison Illuminating Company), and the installation of the first central station (Pearl Street) and electric distribution system in 1882. The systems were dc, and he eventually lost the “War of the Currents” to Westinghouse.
Westinghouse – George Westinghouse led the drive to develop ac systems in the US. He purchased patents from Nikola Tesla, and employed George Stanley, who put in the first practical multi-voltage ac system in the US in Great Barrington, MA in 1886. He had the vision and began the development of the modern economic ac power system, using large centralized generating stations with high-voltage, long-distance transmission lines.
Steinmetz – Charles Proteus Steinmetz mathematically described the “Law of Hysteresis” in the early 1890’s, and improved the design of electric motors. He later worked at General Electric with Thomas Edison, and developed methods to reproduce lightning in an electric laboratory.
Fortescue – Charles Legeyt Fortescue spent his entire career with Westinghouse. In 1918, he published a paper on symmetrical component theory, showing that any set of N unbalanced phasors can be expressed as the sum of N balanced phasors. This facilitated the analysis of unbalanced electric power systems, and symmetrical components are still used today.