US inventor and founder of the Westinghouse Corporation in 1886. He patented a powerful air brake for trains in 1869, which allowed trains to run more safely with greater loads at higher speeds. In the 1880s he turned his attention to the generation of electricity. Unlike Thomas Edison, Westinghouse introduced alternating current (AC) into his power stations.
Westinghouse was born in Central Bridge, New York, and ran away from school at 15 to fight in the American Civil War. In 1865 he took out the first of more than 400 patents. He formed various companies to manufacture his inventions, several based in Pittsburgh and nearby in Turtle Creek Valley, where in 1889 Westinghouse built a model town for his workers. During 1907–08 a series of financial crises and takeovers caused him to lose control of the Westinghouse Industries.
Westinghouse helped to standardize railway components, including the development of a completely new signalling system. He also developed a system of gas mains. In the 1880s Westinghouse got his engineers to design equipment suitable for a new high-tension (voltage) AC system. He also secured the services of the Croatian physicist Nikola Tesla. In 1895 the Westinghouse Electric Company harnessed Niagara Falls to generate electricity for the lights and trams of the nearby town of Buffalo.
Resentful that AC current was chosen as the standard for domestic electricity supply, Edison, who supported DC current transmission, coined the term ‘Westinghoused’ to describe the fate of someone who had been executed by electric chair.
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