Old News – Death of Westinghouse

More news from the past.


Wednesday, March 18, 1914


Invented His Famous Air Brake When a Youth.


Engineer, Dead at Sixty-seven, Was One of the Most Remarkable of Nation’s Great Men—Introduced and Developed Alternating Current System For Electric Light and Power.

westinghouse-georgeThe late George Westinghouse was more than an American, says the New York Times editorially. He belonged to the world and had been a conspicuous figure in it for nearly fifty years. He died comparatively young, only four months over sixty-seven, but he was still a youth with which his career began. The air brake; with which his name will always be associated, was in successful use when he was only twenty-two. It is said of that invention that it has saved more lives than centuries of warfare have destroyed. It has made possible the development of railroad traffic as it is known today—the trains of great length, high speed, large capacity and increasing frequency. For this invention Mr. Westinghouse received great reward and worldwide recognition.

Turned to Electricity.

He made many other contributions to individual progress. If any of these deserve mention more than another it is probably his work to introducing and developing the alternating current system for electric light and power. In the early days of the electrical industry it was soon found that the direct or continuous current, could not be transmitted economically and efficiently beyond a “short  distance” from the generating stations.

Mr. Westinghouse always alert for new ideas and new methods, found that in Europe apparatus had been devised for utilizing the alternating current. By these devices current generated at high pressures could be transmitted over long distances and lowered to pressure at any desired point. He bough the patents, undertook to improve and develop them and labored, against much opposition, until the alternating system became universal.

His career, continues the writer, was a happy illustration of what Tyndall called “the scientific use of the imagination.” He had a wonderful faculty for transforming visions into acts. He became eminent as an engineer, as an inventor and an manufacturer, Fifty thousand employees and $200,000,000 of capital were needed in the many organizations which he founded in America and Europe.

His genius was never shown in brighter light than when he took up some task which other men described as impossible. He must have heard frequently that the air spring for motor vehicles was impossible. The world told him that the geared turbine for driving ships’ propellers and especially his application of it could never succeed. But he made it succeed, and just before his fatal illness he learned that two new battleships are to be fitted with these inventions.

Arthur Warren, close friend of the inventor, says:

“He thought in flashes, and his action seemed almost as quick as his thought. He could and did outwork many men. Every day but Sunday was a working day.”