Westinghouse, George

Westinghouse, George
b. 6 October 1846 Central Bridge, New York, USA
d. 12 March 1914 New York, New York, USA
American inventor and entrepreneur, pioneer of air brakes for railways and alternating-current distribution of electricity.
George Westinghouse's father was an ingenious manufacturer of agricultural implements; the son, after a spell in the Union Army during the Civil War, and subsequently in the Navy as an engineer, went to work for his father. He invented a rotary steam engine, which proved impracticable; a rerailing device for railway rolling stock in 1865; and a cast-steel frog for railway points, with longer life than the cast-iron frogs then used, in 1868–9. During the same period Westinghouse, like many other inventors, was considering how best to meet the evident need for a continuous brake for trains, i.e. one by which the driver could apply the brakes on all vehicles in a train simultaneously instead of relying on brakesmen on individual vehicles. By chance he encountered a magazine article about the construction of the Mont Cenis Tunnel, with a description of the pneumatic tools invented for it, and from this it occurred to him that compressed air might be used to operate the brakes along a train.
The first prototype was ready in 1869 and the Westinghouse Air Brake Company was set up to manufacture it. However, despite impressive demonstration of the brake's powers when it saved the test train from otherwise certain collision with a horse-drawn dray on a level crossing, railways were at first slow to adopt it. Then in 1872 Westinghouse added to it the triple valve, which enabled the train pipe to charge reservoirs beneath each vehicle, from which the compressed air would apply the brakes when pressure in the train pipe was reduced. This meant that the brake was now automatic: if a train became divided, the brakes on both parts would be applied. From then on, more and more American railways adopted the Westinghouse brake and the Railroad Safety Appliance Act of 1893 made air brakes compulsory in the USA. Air brakes were also adopted in most other parts of the world, although only a minority of British railway companies took them up, the remainder, with insular reluctance, preferring the less effective vacuum brake.
From 1880 Westinghouse was purchasing patents relating to means of interlocking railway signals and points; he combined them with his own inventions to produce a complete signalling system. The first really practical power signalling scheme, installed in the USA by Westinghouse in 1884, was operated pneumatically, but the development of railway signalling required an awareness of the powers of electricity, and it was probably this that first led Westinghouse to become interested in electrical processes and inventions. The Westinghouse Electric Company was formed in 1886: it pioneered the use of electricity distribution systems using high-voltage single-phase alternating current, which it developed from European practice. Initially this was violently opposed by established operators of direct-current distribution systems, but eventually the use of alternating current became widespread.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Légion d'honneur. Order of the Crown of Italy. Order of Leopold.
Westinghouse took out some 400 patents over forty-eight years.
Further Reading
H.G.Prout, 1922, A Life of "George Westinghouse", London (biography inclined towards technicalities).
F.E.Leupp, 1918, George Westinghouse: His Life and Achievements, Boston (London 1919) (biography inclined towards Westinghouse and his career).
J.F.Stover, 1961, American Railroads, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 152–4.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Westinghouse, George — born Oct. 6, 1846, Central Bridge, N.Y., U.S. died March 12, 1914, New York, N.Y. U.S. inventor and industrialist. He served in the American Civil War. His first major invention was an air brake (patented 1869), which was eventually made… …   Universalium

  • Westinghouse, George — ► (1841 1914) Inventor e industrial estadounidense. Inicialmente se interesó por los ferrocarriles; creó el freno automático de aire, y fundó en 1869 la Westinghouse Air Brake Company. Su sistema de frenos perfeccionado fue aceptado rápidamente… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Westinghouse,George — West·ing·house (wĕsʹtĭng hous ), George. 1846 1914. American engineer and manufacturer who received more than 400 patents for his many inventions, including the air brake (1869), an automatic railroad signaling device (1882), and a practical… …   Universalium

  • Westinghouse — Westinghouse, George …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • George Westinghouse — (* 6. Oktober 1846 in Central Bridge, New York; † 12. März 1914 in New York) war ein US amerikanischer Erfinder, Ingenieur und Großindustrieller. Durch seine Erfindung der Druckluftbremse wurde …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • George Westinghouse — George Westinghouse, né le 6 octobre 1846 à Central Bridge dans l État de New York et mort le 12 mars 1914 à New York, était un ingénieur et entrepreneur américain, princ …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Westinghouse — may refer to:In current companies: *Westinghouse Electric Corporation (1998), and its licensees: **Westinghouse Digital Electronics, selling LCD televisions and related products **Salton, Inc., selling vacuum cleaners under the name Westinghouse… …   Wikipedia

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