the realm of science, all attempts to find any evidence of superhatural
beings, of metaphysical conceptions, as God, immortality, infinity,
etc., thus have failed, and if we are honest, we must confess that in
science there exists no God, no immortality, no soul or mind as distinct
from the body. -- Charles Steinmetz, quoted in American Freeman, July,
1941, quoted from James A. Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief
evidence or proof of the existence of a God has been found in the phenomena
of nature, based on experience. No
man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions.
an interesting anecdote, as told by Charles M. Vest, President of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during commencement on June 4th,
1999. "In the early years of this century, Steinmetz was brought
to General Electric's facilities in Schenectady, New York. GE had encountered
a performance problem with one of their huge electrical generators and
had been absolutely unable to correct it. Steinmetz, a genius in his
understanding of electromagnetic phenomena, was brought in as a consultant
- not a very common occurrence in those days, as it would be now. Steinmetz
also found the problem difficult to diagnose, but for some days he closeted
himself with the generator, its engineering drawings, paper and pencil.
At the end of this period, he emerged, confident that he knew how to
correct the problem. After he departed, GE's engineers found a large
"X" marked with chalk on the side of the generator casing.
There also was a note instructing them to cut the casing open at that
location and remove so many turns of wire from the stator. The generator
would then function properly. And indeed it did. Steinmetz was asked
what his fee would be. Having no idea in the world what was appropriate,
he replied with the absolutely unheard of answer that his fee was $1000.
Stunned, the GE bureaucracy then required him to submit a formally itemized
invoice. They soon received it. It included two items:
Marking chalk "X" on side of generator: $1.
Knowing where to mark chalk "X": $999."
Steinmetz, Charles Proteus
AUGUST RUDOLF STEINMETZ
scientist, mathematician and electrical engineer considered a genius
due to his many discoveries and inventions. He taught electricity and
wrote books on the theory of alternating current. He studied the properties
of lightning and made many brilliant discoveries, credited with over
200 patents. Overall, his life is remembered as helping inaugurate the
electrical era in the United States.
was raised in poverty and handicapped with a hunchback. His early school
performance was poor: at age eight he was having trouble with multiplication
tables, but by the time he was ten, he was one of the school’s
brightest pupils, showing an unusual capability in mathematics, physics,
and classical literature. He graduated from gymnasium with honours,
entered the University of Breslau in 1883, and devoured books on every
subject from mathematics and economics to literature and medicine. As
example of his mind was memorization of the logarithmic tables which
he could manipulate mentally to solve problems in a few seconds. Most
telling, he was fascinated with the study of electricity, but courses
in University were short on theory or practice.
felt himself an outsider because of his misshapen form, he was drawn
to the socialist circles in Breslau, at first through a "Mathematictics
Association" where he met friends full of enthusiasm for utopian
settlements in America. He joined the student socialist club, banned
by the government and when some party members were arrested, Steinmetz
took over the editorship of the party newspaper, "The People's
Voice." He fled Germany after university because of socialist activities,
arriving in New York on July 1, 1889.
He got his
start in electrical engineering research in the company which was to
become General Electric, enjoying a long career in industry and as a
university professor. In 1892 Steinmetz reported to the American Institute
of Electrical Engineers on his law of hysteresis loss, which would increase
efficiency in electrical apparatus.
8, 1891 the Law of Hysteresis was explained in the magazine, "The
Electrical Engineer", and on January 19, 1892 it was the topic
of a speech by Steinmetz to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers
in New York City. His work was immediately recognized as a classic by
the few who understood it, and the constant he calculated for this loss
has remained a part of electrical engineering vocabulary. It was just
three years since he had landed in America, and Steinmetz was famous
at age 27 in engineering circles. At about the same time, Steinmetz
Americanized his first name to Charles and substituted Proteus, a university
nickname, for his two middle names. His middle name Proteus, was named
after the Greek god who could take on any shape or size.
was immediately recognized as classic by those few who understood it,
and the constant he calculated has remained part of electrical engineering
vocabulary. This law governing hysteresis loss, allowed engineers to
calculate and minimize losses of electric power due to magnetism in
their designs before construction. Steinmetz' reputation as a key factor
in electrical engineering was assured at the age of 27.
his three most important accomplishments to be: (1) his work in the
field of electromagnetism, (2) the development of a practical, simplified
method of managing and calculating values for alternating current using
complex numbers, and (3) his research on lightning phenomena. As professor
1902–23 at Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., Steinmetz wrote many
scientific papers and a standard texts. He remained a socialist and
was president of the Schenectady board of education. In his later years
Steinmetz also engaged in public affairs to a considerable degree, notably
as president of the Schenectady city council. He was president of the
American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
died October 26, 1923, Schenectady, New York.
with the effects of lighting and synthetic fertilizers on the growth
of plants. He also used his greenhouse for raising orchids and cacti.
His greenhouse, in which he grew unusual plants, was often the subject
of -- not always friendly -- articles. It was said that he preferred
ugly, prickly plants.
he seen without one of his favorite Blackstone panetella cigars. Frequently
on Friday nights his colleagues would visit his house at 1297 Wendell
Avenue, bullt in the General Electric Plot area where the homes of other
General Electric executives had been built. He had formed a club, “The
Society for the Adjustment of Salaries.” The members spent the
evening and late hours playing draw poker. During a crackdown on smoking
at the G.E. labs, Steinmetz was told that his ever-present cigar had
to go. His reply is reported to have been "If the cigar goes, Steinmetz
Steinmetz's distinguished visitors was Albert Einstein who came to Schenectedy
in 1921. It was in that year Einstein received the Nobel Prize in physics.
formed the Steinmetz Electric Motor Car Co. in 1920 to designed prototypes
of several electric vehicles. The company was in Brooklyn, where it
produced an industrial truck and a lightweight delivery car. The first
electrical Steinmetz truck hit the road in early 1922 by climbing a
steep hill in Brooklyn as a publicity stunt. In October, the company
claimed to have developed a five-passenger coupe. Steinmetz planned
for the company to turn out 1,000 trucks and 300 cars annually, but
that was cut short by his death in 1923. The company folded shortly
after Steinmetz's death when a lawsuit from a shareholder revealed that
the company had misrepresented the number of cars being produced.
was not only a scientist but a thinker and writer as well. Steinmetz
did not abandon his socialist ideals, but tried to find a common denominator
for them and the American economic system in which he played so prominent
a role. He wrote his book, "America and the New Time", in
which he urged a four-hour day. The fact that Germany, to which he urged
a four-hour day. The fact that Germany, to which he was still emotionally
attached, was at war against his chosen home, America, affected him
profoundly. Since he spoke his mind, he suffered severe attacks, which
he disregarded. Even while World War I was going on, he propagated the
idea of a united Europe -- without, however, receiving much of an echo.
He also wrote about racism in America. Steinmetz was influenced by several
factors in his life. His religion, background, and occupation all added
to the ideals that he espoused in his works. His scientific and philosophic
works have been read and analyzed by other scholars, but the original
works are still fresh.
was never married, fearful that deformed children like himself would
be born, but had "acquired" a family by adopting a young engineer,
J.L. Hayden, who later married and lived in the house with his wife
and children that Charles had built for them. He loved children and
was loved by them.
He almost single-handedly
reformed the schools of his adopted city, and provided a Christmas
present for every orphan in town. He also loved animals and his house
was like a zoo with pet crows, squirrels, raccoons, cranes, dogs,
a pet monkey named “Jenny,” etc. living there. Neighbors
brought injured animals to him to be cared for.
Proteus Steinmetz died in his sleep on October 26, 1923, of heart failure.
for his students "the spirit of divine discontent, for without
it the world would stand still."
Steinmetz once remarked, “I want to say that absolutely all the
success I have had has been due to my thorough study of mathematics.”
said "Chapters have been written of his greatness intellectually;
as many more could be filled with his kindnesses. Dwarfed, perhaps,
in body, but with a heart as big as the universe and a soul as pure
as a child's." Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York is quoted as
saying, “He always wanted to help everybody.”