The Full Wiki

Charles Proteus Steinmetz: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charles Proteus Steinmetz
Born Carl August Rudolph Steinmetz
April 9, 1865(1865-04-09)
Breslau, Province of Silesia
Died October 26, 1923 (aged 58)
Vale Cemetery, Schenectady
Occupation Mathematician and electrical engineer
Parents Carl Heinrich Steinmetz
Marconi Wireless Station in Somerset, New Jersey in 1921. Steinmetz is at centre; he died two years later.
Steinmetz maintained a small cabin overlooking the Mohawk River near Schenectady, New York.

Charles Proteus Steinmetz (April 9, 1865 – October 26, 1923) was a German-American mathematician and electrical engineer. He fostered the development of alternating current that made possible the expansion of the electric power industry in the United States, formulating mathematical theories for engineers. He made ground-breaking discoveries in the understanding of hysteresis that enabled engineers to design better electric motors for use in industry.[1]


Early life

Steinmetz was born as Carl August Rudolph Steinmetz to Carl Heinrich Steinmetz in Breslau, Province of Silesia. Steinmetz suffered from dwarfism, hunchback, and hip dysplasia, as did his father and grandfather. Steinmetz attended Johannes Gymnasium and astonished his teachers with his proficiency in mathematics and physics.


Socialist activities

Following the Gymnasium Steinmetz went on to the University of Breslau to begin work on his undergraduate degree in 1883. He was on the verge of finishing his Doctorate in 1888 when he came under investigation by the German police for activities on behalf of a socialist university group and articles he had written for a local socialist newspaper.

As socialist meetings and press had been banned in Germany, Steinmetz fled to Zürich in 1888 to escape possible arrest. Faced with an expiring visa, he emigrated to the United States in 1889.

Cornell University Professor Ronald R. Kline, the author of Steinmetz: Engineer and Socialist, contends that other factors were more directly involved in Steinmetz's decision to leave his homeland, such as the fact that he was in arrears with his tuition at the University of Breslau and that life at home with his father, stepmother, and their daughters was full of tension.

Despite his earlier efforts and interest in socialism, by 1922 Steinmetz concluded that socialism would never work in the United States because the country lacked a "powerful, centralized government of competent men, remaining continuously in office" and because "only a small percentage of Americans accept this viewpoint today."[2]

Career in science

Shortly after arriving in the US, Steinmetz went to work for Rudolf Eickemeyer in Yonkers, New York, and published in the field of magnetic hysteresis. Eickemeyer's firm developed transformers for use in the transmission of electrical power among many other mechanical and electrical devices. In 1893 Eickemeyer's company, along with all of his patents and designs, was bought by the newly formed General Electric Company.

Development of phasor

At the International Electrical Congress in Chicago that year Steinmetz made one of his greatest contributions to the Electrical Engineering community, a lecture and presentation describing the mathematics of alternating current phenomena which had not previously been explained by earlier engineers.[3] Steinmetz used the term phasor for his simplified mathematical representation of an electricity waveform, a property that has greatly simplified the analysis of AC circuits. Since the 1990's, phasor measurement units have been used to measure the health of wide area electrical networks, and are currently revolutionizing the power industry worldwide[4].

Use of Steinmetz's innovations in the mathematics of electricity enabled engineers to move from designing electric motors by trial and error to designing them with the aid of applicable mathematics to create on paper the best possible motor before actually constructing it. In 1894, General Electric moved to Schenectady, New York, and Steinmetz was promoted to head of the calculating department, where his colleagues would bring to him the mathematical problems that were stumbling blocks to their projects. When not freely helping his co-workers, he worked on his own experiments in electricity and served first as chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering and later as a part-time professor at Union College between 1902 to 1923.[5]

Forger of thunderbolts

One of Steinmetz's great research projects was centered with the phenomena of lightning. He undertook a systematic study of it, resulting in experiments of man-made lightning in the laboratory; this work was published. Steinmetz was called the "forger of thunderbolts", being the first to create artificial lightning in his GE football field-sized laboratory and high towers, using 120,000 volt generators. He also erected a lightning tower to attract lightning and studied the patterns and effects of lightning hits on tree bark and in a broken mirror--resulting in several theories and ideas (like the effect of lightning on plant growth and ac electric poles).

Later years

Steinmetz served as president of the Board of Education of Schenectady, and as president of the Schenectady city council. He was also president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) from 1901 to 1902, as well as the first vice-president of the International Association of Municipal Electricians (IAME)—which later became the International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA)—from 1913 until his death. Steinmetz wrote 13 books and 60 articles, not all about science. He was an honorary member and advisor to the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta at Union (whose chapter house there was one of the first electrified houses ever).

Steinmetz died on October 26, 1923 and was buried in Vale Cemetery, Schenectady.

His connection to Union College is celebrated with the annual Steinmetz Symposium,[6] a day-long event in which Union undergraduates give presentations on research they have done.

Steinmetz was portrayed in 1959 by the actor Rod Steiger in the CBS anthology series, The Joseph Cotten Show. The episode centered on his socialist activities in Germany.


At the time of his death, Steinmetz held over 200 patents:[7]

In popular culture

Steinmetz is featured in John Dos Passos' USA Trilogy in one of the biographies.[8]


  • Cedergren Medal (1914).


  • Theory and calculation of alternating current phenomena", with the assistance of Ernst J. Berg, 1897. Information from this book has been reprinted in many subsequent engineering texts.
  • "The Natural Period of a Transmission Line and the Frequency of lightning Discharge Therefrom", The Electrical World, August 27, 1898. Pg. 203 - 205.
  • Theoretical elements of electrical engineering, McGraw, 1902.
  • Future of Electricity, Transcript of lecture to the New York Electrical Trade School, 1908.
  • General lectures on electrical engineering, edited by Joseph Le Roy Hayden, Robson & Adee, 1908.
  • Radiation, light and illumination : a series of engineering lectures delivered at Union college, ed. by Joseph Le Roy Hayden, McGraw-Hill, 1909
  • Elementary lectures on electric discharges, waves and impulses, and other transients, 1911.
  • Theory and calculation of transient electric phenomena and oscillations, McGraw publishing company, 1911.
  • America and the new epoch, Harper, c. 1916.
  • Engineering mathematics; a series of lectures delivered at Union College, 1917.
  • Theory and calculation of electric apparatus, 1917.
  • Essay on Science and Religion at Project Gutenberg. Homer Heath Nugent, 1922.
  • Four lectures on relativity and space, McGraw-Hill book co. inc., 1923.


  1. ^ Invent Now | Hall of Fame | Search | Inventor Profile at
  2. ^ Retrieved May-31-2009
  3. ^ Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1893). "Complex Quantities and Their Use in Electrical Engineering" (in english). Proceedings of the International Electrical Congress, Chicago (American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) Proceedings): pp. 33–74.  
  4. ^ Yilu Liu, Lamine Mili, Jaime De La Ree, Reynaldo Francisco Nuqui, Reynaldo Francisco Nuqui (2001-07-12). "State Estimation and Voltage Security Monitoring Using Synchronized Phasor Measurement" (in english) (pdf). Research paper from work sponsored by American Electric Power, ABB Power T&D Company, and Tennessee Valley Authority (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University).;jsessionid=3B975B94733D906CA197813C53C2BD86?doi= Retrieved 2008-12-01. abstract Lay summary. ""Simulations and field experiences suggest that PMUs can revolutionize the way power systems are monitored and controlled. "".  
  5. ^
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ C. P. Steinmetz at
  8. ^ The 42nd Parallel, 335.

Note on the law of hysteresis. The Electrician. Jan 2. 1891 pp. 261-262.

External links

Further reading

  • Charles Proteus Steinmetz: A Biography, John Winthrop Hammond, New York Century Co., 1924.
  • Steinmetz and his discoverer, John Thomas Broderick, 1924.
  • Loki: The Life of Charles Proteus Steinmetz, Jonathan Norton Leonard, Doubleday, 1929.
  • The Little Giant Of Schenectady, Dorothy Markey, Aladdin Books, 1936.
  • Sigmund A Lavine (1955). Steinmetz, maker of lightning;. Dodd, Mead.  , Sigmund Lavine, Dodd & Mead, 1955.
  • Modern Jupiter, John Anderson Miller, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1958.
  • Floyd Miller (1962). The electrical genius of Liberty Hall: Charles Proteus Steinmetz. McGraw-Hill.   (aka The Man Who Tamed Lightning), Floyd Miller, McGraw-Hill, 1962.
  • Steinmetz the Philosopher, Ernest Caldecott, Philip Alger, 1965.
  • Charles Steinmetz: Scientist and Socialist (1865-1923) Including the complete Steinmetz-Lenin correspondence, Sender Garlin, American Institute for Marxist Studies, 1977 (reprinted in Sender Garlin's 1991 Three Radicals).
  • Recollections of Steinmetz - A Visit to the Workshops of Dr. Charles Proteus Steinmetz,Emil J. Remscheid, General Electric Hall of History Foundation, 1977.
  • Steinmetz in Schenectady - A Picture History of Three Memorable Decades, Larry Hart, Old Dorp Books, 1978.
  • Steinmetz: Engineer and Socialist, Ronald Kline, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
  • Goodrich, Arthur (June 1904). "Charles P. Steinmetz, Electrician". The World's Work: A History of Our Time VIII: 4867–4869.  


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Charles Proteus Steinmetz (April 9, 1865October 26, 1923) was a German-American mathematician and electrical engineer. He fostered the development of alternating current that made possible the expansion of the electric power industry in the United States, formulating mathematical theories for engineers.



  • In this country all a man need to do is to attain a little eminence and immediately he begins to talk.
  • But the American people are willing to listen to any one who has attained prominence. The main fact is that we've heard a man's name a great many times; that makes us ready to accept whatever he says.
  • When it comes to scientific matters the ready talkers simply run riot. There are a lot of pseudo-scientists who with a little technical jargon to spatter through their talk are always getting in the limelight by making startling predictions of what the future has in store, using as their text the most recent discovery or invention.
  • We don't know the why of anything. On that matter we are no further advanced than was the cavedweller. The scientist is contented if he can contribute something toward the knowledge of what is and how it is.
  • In a mathematical sense, space is manifoldness, or combination of numbers. Physical space is known as the 3-dimension system. There is the 4-dimension system, there is the 10-dimension system.
  • Scientific theories need reconstruction every now and then. If they didn't need reconstruction they would be facts, not theories.
    • Electricity will keep the world from freezing up; noted expert, Dr. C.P. Steinmetz, talks of the future wonders of scientific discovery and ridicules many prophecies, New York Times (November 11, 1911)[1].


  • There are no foolish questions and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.
    • John J. B. Morgan and T. Webb Ewing (2005). Making the Most of Your Life. p. 75 [2].  
  • Money is a stupid measure of achievement, but unfortunately it is the only universal measure we have.

About Charles Steinmetz

  • He doesn't believe a trumpet and a megaphone are part of a scientist's equipment.
    • as reported in Electricity will keep the world from freezing up; noted expert, Dr. C.P. Steinmetz, talks of the future wonders of scientific discovery and ridicules many prophecies, New York Times (November 11, 1911)[3].

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address