Westinghouse Circuit Breakers

Written by Will Baum
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Westinghouse circuit breakers come with the imprint of one of the most trusted names in electronics. The giant Westinghouse Company, like most others, began humbly, in the lab of inventor George Westinghouse. Westinghouse--the man--was a major contributor to the history of electricity use in the U.S. and in the world.

One of Westinghouse's most remarkable claims to fame is his development of the hydroelectric power at Niagara Falls in 1896. The Niagara plant served Buffalo, New York, with a huge power supply, proving Westinghouse's assertions about the superiority of electrical power transmission over other means (such as hydraulic pipes and compressed air). The Niagara triumph also argued persuasively for the adoption of alternating current (AC) and not direct current (DC).

To send power over a long distance, Westinghouse invented the transformer. Transformers permit electricity to be sent as high voltage and be converted once it reaches its destination to a more manageable voltage.

Westinghouse Circuit Breakers and George Westinghouse

George Westinghouse was born in 1846 during a time where the phrase, "Westinghouse circuit breakers" would have sounded like nonsense to anyone's ears. Young Westinghouse worked in his father's agricultural machinery shop before serving as a private in the Civil War. A college dropout, Westinghouse received his first patent, for a rotary steam engine, in 1865.

Westinghouse wasn't limited to power-oriented inventions. He also developed the air brake and other devices that make railroads far safer than they ever had been. Eventually, Westinghouse's inventions spawned 60 separate companies including the Westinghouse we know today, manufacturer of Westinghouse circuit breakers and countless other devices and products.


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