Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse

Nikola Tesla

George Westinghouse

In November and December of 1887, Nikola Tesla, a Serbian engineer, filed for seven U.S. patents in the field of polyphase AC motors and power transmission. His motor produced alternating current and his transformers stepped up and stepped down the voltage as required. Westinghouse believed in Tesla's inventions, installed, them in the Adams Station and brought electricity to Buffalo.

The challenge

To send electricity over long distances requires high voltage to "push" the current through wires. Yet using high voltages n homes and factories can be dangerous.

With a transformer, alternating current (AC) can easily be "stepped up" to high voltages for transmission, or "stepped down" to lower voltages for manufacturing and domestic uses. This cannot be done with direct current (DC).

Westinghouse VS. Edison

George Westinghouse's firm faith in the AC system led to the founding of the Westinghouse Electric Company in 1886, to oppose the DC system supported by Edison. Westinghouse's company deliberately underbid and won the contract to power the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The widely publicized implementation of AC converted skeptics, like Lord Kelvin, and forced them to recognize the system's potential.

Based on this success, the Cataract Company hired Westinghouse to build ten 5,000 horsepower generators for the Adams Station. This was a tremendous challenge because earlier generators were only 150 horsepower!

Illustrations and text from a 2004 display in the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society

Special thanks to Director Dr. William Siener for his cooperation and encouragement
Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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