The Genius of George Westinghouse

Among his many achievements, George Westinghouse secured more than 360 patents, started the first radio station and built the first practical induction motor

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Bob Honsberger's circa 1870s Westinghouse Company threshing machine.

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“If someday they say of me that in my work I have contributed something to the welfare and happiness of fellow men, I shall be satisfied.” – George Westinghouse

George Westinghouse’s name is well-known, but his genius may not be widely recognized.


He not only designed and produced the threshing machine that Bob Honsberger owns (read about his more-than-century-old machine: “ 100-Plus-Year-Old Westinghouse Separator Still Threshing’ ”), but he’s noted for countless contributions to the modern world.

He was born in Central Bridge, N.Y., on Oct. 6, 1846. As a boy, Westinghouse gained inspiration for inventiveness in his father’s machine shop. On Oct. 31, 1865, when he was 19 years old, Westinghouse received his first patent: a rotary steam engine.

At 22 years of age, he developed the air brake – a device that stopped trains using compressed air – after nearly dying in a train that wrecked due to faulty brakes.

By 1903, the Westinghouse Company offered seven different models of threshing machines. The largest was the Model 00. It required 12 hp to operate efficiently with the threshing cylinder turning about 1,000 rpm. The machine was capable of threshing about 700 bushels of wheat a day, or about 42,000 pounds of grain.

In all, Westinghouse secured 361 patents for devices ranging from farm machines to appliances. He spearheaded the development of alternating current-powered devices, built marine turbine engines, started the first radio station in the world (KDKA in Pittsburgh), built the first practical induction motor and received the first contract to harness the enormous water power of Niagara Falls, where he built the first turbine generator power station. Westinghouse also designed electric appliances including sewing machines, washers, dryers, one of the first “turnover” toasters, clothes irons, grills, percolators, radios and record players.

George Westinghouse died on March 12, 1914, at 68 years old and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. FC