George Westinghouse (born October 6, 1846, Central Bridge, Schoharie County, New York – Died March 12, 1914, New York, USA) was an inventor and industrialist who pioneered the use of alternating current in electrical transmission in the United States.
He served in the army and navy during the Civil War. In 1865 he received his first patent for a rotary steam engine. It turned out that this machine was not useful, but Westinghouse developed a new water meter by using the working principle applied in the machine. In the same year, he invented a mechanism that placed derailed freight cars on rails.
His interest in railways led to his first major invention, the air brake (1869), the same year he founded the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. With the addition of some automatic mechanisms, air brakes began to be widely used in trains; The Railway Safety Devices Act, passed in 1893, mandated the use of such brakes on trains. Working on the standardization of air brake devices in order to use the same type of brakes on trains operating on different lines and to install more advanced models of the brake on existing trains after automatic air brakes became widespread in Europe, Westinghouse thus pioneered modern standardization methods.
Westinghouse later started to work on railway sign systems, adding his own inventions to the patents he bought, and developed a complete sign system that works with electricity and compressed air. Drawing on his knowledge of air brakes, he began work on a safe natural gas pipeline system in 1883. The number of patents on this subject reached 38 within two years (the total number of patents Westinghouse has received is over 100).
Electric transmission systems developed in the USA in the 1880s used only direct current; In Europe, several systems with alternating current were developed. One of the most successful of these was the system that Lucien Gaulard and John Gibbs established in London in 1881. Westinghouse installed a power distribution system in Pittsburgh (1885), having brought in a group of Gaulard-Gibbs transformers and a Siemens alternating current generator. Making transformers more advanced with the help of three electrical engineers, Westinghouse also developed an alternating current generator that can keep the value of the voltage it produces constant. The Westinghouse Electric Company he founded in 1886 became the Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company three years later. Westinghouse, which bought Nikola Tesla's patents on the alternating current motor, hired Tesla to develop the motor and adapt it to the energy system to be installed. When the energy system was ready to be marketed, the proponents of using direct current in energy transmission launched an intense disparagement and discrediting campaign for alternating current. The work of lighting the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was entrusted to Westinghouse's company; Westinghouse also obtained the right to install alternating current systems to obtain electrical energy from the waterfalls on Niagara Falls.
George Westinghouse lost control of the Westinghouse Electric Company, on which he had laid the foundations, in the stock market crash of 1907. He cut off all ties with the company in 1911 and died in 1914 in his native New York.