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Charles Proteus Steinmetz

2 Socialism and technocracy

Charles Proteus Steinmetz (April 9, 1865 October

26, 1923) was a Prussian-born American mathematician
and electrical engineer and professor at Union College.
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 electromagnetic apparatus equipment including especially electric motors for use in
industry.[1][2][lower-alpha 1]

As socialist meetings and press had been banned in Germany, Steinmetz ed to Zrich in 1888 to escape possible arrest. Faced with an expiring visa, he emigrated to
the United States in 1889. He changed his rst name to
Charles in order to sound more American, and chose
the middle name "Proteus" after a childhood epithet
given to him by classmates. Proteus was a wise hunchbacked character from the Odyssey who knew many secrets, and Steinmetz felt the name suited him.
Cornell University Professor Ronald R. Kline, the author
of Steinmetz: Engineer and Socialist, contended that other
factors were more directly involved in Steinmetzs 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.

Early life

Despite his earlier eorts 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 oce, and because only
a small percentage of Americans accept this viewpoint
A member of the original Technical Alliance, which also
included Thorstein Veblen and Leland Olds, Steinmetz
had great faith in the ability of machines to eliminate human toil and create abundance for all. He put it this way:
Steinmetz maintained a small cabin overlooking the Mohawk Some day we make the good things of life for everybody. [7]
River near Schenectady, New York.
Steinmetz was born Karl August Rudolph Steinmetz
on April 9, 1865 in Breslau, Province of Silesia, the son
of Caroline (Neubert) and Karl Heinrich Steinmetz.[3]
He was baptized a Lutheran, the religion his family
nominally belonged to.[4][5] Steinmetz suered from
dwarsm, hunchback, and hip dysplasia, as did his
father and grandfather. Steinmetz attended Johannes
Gymnasium and astonished his teachers with his prociency in mathematics and physics.

3 Engineering
Steinmetz is known for his contribution in three major elds of alternating current (AC) systems theory:
hysteresis, steady-state analysis, and transients.

3.1 AC hysteresis theory

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 nishing 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.

Shortly after arriving in the United States, Steinmetz

went to work for Rudolf Eickemeyer in Yonkers, New
York, and published in the eld of magnetic hysteresis,
which gave him world-wide professional recognition.[8]
Eickemeyers rm developed transformers for use in the
transmission of electrical power among many other me1


lightning resulting in several theories and ideas.

4 Professional and personal aspects

Steinmetz became Professor of Electrical Engineering at
Union College in 1902, as well as Chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department and served on the faculty
until the end of World War I. He was awarded honorary
degrees by both Harvard University and Union. Steinmetz also served as president of the Board of Education
of Schenectady, New York, and as president of the Schenectady City Council. He was president of the American
Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) from 1901 to
1902,[11] as well as the rst 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 circa 1915
Steinmetz wrote 13 books and 60 articles, not all about
engineering. He was a member and adviser to the fraterchanical and electrical devices. In 1893 Eickemeyers nity Phi Gamma Delta at Union College, whose chapter
company, along with all of its patents and designs, was house there was one of the rst electried houses ever.
bought by the newly formed General Electric Company,
Steinmetz was a lifelong agnostic.[12][lower-alpha 2]
where he quickly became known as the engineering wizard in GEs engineering community.[8]

5 Legacy

AC steady state circuit theory

Steinmetz died on October 26, 1923 and was buried in

Steinmetzs work revolutionized AC circuit theory and Vale Cemetery, Schenectady, New York.
analysis, which had been carried out using complicated,
time-consuming calculus-based methods. In the groundbreaking paper, Complex Quantities and Their Use in
Electrical Engineering, presented at a July 1893 meeting published in the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), Steinmetz simplied these complicated
methods to a simple problem of algebra. He systematized the use of complex number phasor representation in electrical engineering education texts, whereby
the lower-case letter j is used to designate the 90degree rotation operator in AC system analysis.[2][9] His
seminal books and many other AIEE papers taught a
whole generation of engineers how to deal with AC


AC transient theory

Steinmetz also made greater strides to the understanding

of lightning phenomena. He undertook a systematic study
of it, resulting in experiments with man-made lightning
in the laboratory; this work was published. Steinmetz was
called the forger of thunderbolts", being the rst to create articial lightning in his football eld-sized laboratory
and high towers built at General Electric, using 120,000
volt generators. He erected a lightning tower to attract
natural lightning, and studied the patterns and eects of

Marconi Wireless Station in Somerset, New Jersey in 1921, on the

day Albert Einstein was given a tour. Steinmetz is at center; he
died two years later.

Based on Steinmetz experiments, Steinmetzs formula

denes the approximate heat energy due to magnetic
hysteresis released, per cycle per unit area of magnetic
material.[lower-alpha 3][13] Steinmetz equivalent circuit theory is still widely used for the design and testing of induction motors.[14]
One of the highest technical awards given by the Institute
of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, for major con-

tributions to standardization within the eld of electrical Southern California Mystery Writers Association meetand electronics engineering, is named in his honor as the ings.
IEEE Charles Proteus Steinmetz Award.
Steinmetz is a major character in the novel Electric City by
His connection to Union College is celebrated with the Elizabeth Rosner. In this epic story of technology, Rosannual Steinmetz Symposium,[15] a day-long event in ner connects Steinmetzs early ethos as a socialist with his
which Union undergraduates give presentations on re- humanitarian vision of a better society based on technosearch they have done. Steinmetz Hall, which houses the logical progress: The political arena that had summoned
Union College computer center, is named after him.
him in his youth, Socialist views that sent him into exile
contributed to a seemingly
Steinmetz was portrayed in 1959 by the actor Rod Steiger all those years earlier, further
in the CBS television anthology series, The Joseph Cotten
Show. The episode focused on his socialist activities in
A Chicago public high school, Steinmetz College Prep, is
named for him.
A public park in north Schenectady, New York was
named for him in 1931.[16]

8 Awards
Certicate of Merit of Franklin Institute (1908)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1913)
Cedergren Medal (1914)


At the time of his death, Steinmetz held over 200

U.S. Patent 533,244, "System of distribution by alternating current" (January 29, 1895)
U.S. Patent 559,419, "Inductor dynamo"
U.S. Patent 583,950, "Three phase induction meter"
U.S. Patent 594,145, "Inductor dynamo"
U.S. Patent 714,412, "Induction motor"
U.S. Patent 717,464, "System of electrical distribution"
U.S. Patent 865,617, "Induction motor"
U.S. Patent 1,025,932, "Means for producing light"
(May 7, 1912)
U.S. Patent 1,042,986, "Induction furnace"
U.S. Patent 1,230,615, "Protective device"
U.S. Patent RE11,576, "Inductor dynamo"

In popular culture

Steinmetz is featured in John Dos Passoss U.S.A. trilogy

in one of the biographies.[18] He also serves as a major
character in Starling Lawrences The Lightning Keeper.[19]
Novelist John Ball grew up in Steinmetzs house. His
parents were graduate students paid by General Electric
to live with and take care of the man Ball called Uncle Steinie. Ball used to tell his Steinmetz stories to the

9 Works
The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the
Death of Energy, with Notes on the Thermodynamics of the Atmosphere, General Electric Review, Volume 15, July, 1912, pages 419 - 424
On the Law of Hysteresis, AIEE Trans., IX:3-64,
1892; Proc. of the IEEE, 72(2):197-221, doi:
Complex Quantities and Their Use in Electrical Engineering, AIEE Proceedings of International Electrical Congress, July 1893, pp. 3374
Theory of the General Alternating Current Transformer, AIEE Trans., XII:245-256, Jan. 1895
Theory and Calculation of Alternating Current Phenomena, with the assistance of Ernst J. Berg,
1897.[21] Information from this book has been
reprinted in many subsequent engineering texts.
The Alternating Current Induction Motor.
Trans., XIV (1): 183-217, 1897.


The Natural Period of a Transmission Line and the

Frequency of Lightning Discharge Therefrom, The
Electrical World, p. 203-205, August 27, 1898.
Speed Regulation of Prime Movers and Parallel
Operation of Alternators, AIEE Trans., XVIII:
741-744, Jan. 1901.
Theoretical Elements of Electrical Engineering, McGraw, 1902.
The Alternating-Current Railway Motor, AIEE
Trans., XXIII:9-25, Jan. 1904.



Lightning Phenomena in Electric Circuits, AIEE

Trans., XXVI(1):401-423, Jan. 1907.

The General Equations of the Electric Circuit-III,

AIEE Trans., XXXVIII(1):191-260, Jan. 1919.

Electrical Engineering Education, AIEE Trans.,

XXVII(1):79-85, Jan. 1908.

Power Control and Stability of Electric Generating

Stations, AIEE Trans., XXXIX(2):1215-1287, Jul.
20, 1920.

Future of Electricity, Transcript of lecture to the

New York Electrical Trade School, 1908.
Primary Standard of Light, AIEE
XXVII(2):1319-1324, Jun. 8, 1908.


The General Equations of the Electric Circuit, AIEE,

Trans., XXVII(2):1231-1305, Jun. 8, 1908.
General Lectures on Electrical Engineering, edited by
Joseph Le Roy Hayden, Robson & Adee, 1908.
Prime Movers, AIEE Trans., XXVIII(1):63-84, Jan.
The Value of the Classics in Engineering Education,
AIEE, Trans. XXVIII(2):1103-1106, Jun. 9, 1909.
Radiation, Light and Illumination : A Series of Engineering Lectures Delivered at Union College, ed. by
Joseph Le Roy Hayden, McGraw, 1909
Disruptive Strength with Transient Voltages, with
Hayden, Joseph L. R. principal author, AIEE Trans.,
XXIX(2):1125-1158, May 10, 1910.
Engineering Mathematics; A Series of Lectures Delivered at Union College, McGraw, 1911.
Mechanical Forces in Magnetic Fields, AIEE Trans.,
XXX(1):367-385, Jan. 1911.
Elementary Lectures on Electric Discharges, Waves
and Impulses, and Other Transients, McGraw, 1911.
Theory and Calculation of Transient Electric Phenomena and Oscillations, McGraw, 1911.
Some Problems of High-Voltage Transmissions,
AIEE Trans., XXXI(1):167-173, Jan. 1912.
Instability of Electric Circuits, AIEE Trans.,
XXXII(2):2005-2021, May 13, 1913.
Recording Devices, AIEE Trans., XXXIII(1):283292, Jan. 1914.
Outline of Theory of Impulse Currents, AIEE Trans.,
XXXV(1):1-31, Jan. 1916.
America and the New Epoch, Harper, c. 1916.
Theory and Calculation of Electric Apparatus, McGraw, 1917.

Condenser Discharges Through a General Gas Circuit, AIEE Trans., XLI:63-76, Jan. 1922.
Essay on Science and Religion at Project Gutenberg.
Homer Heath Nugent, 1922.
High-Voltage Insulation, with Hayden, J. L. R. principal author, AIEE Trans., XLII:1029-1042, Jan.
Frequency Conversion by Third Class Conductor and
Mechanism of the Arcing Ground and Other Cumulative Surges, AIEE Trans., XLII:470-477, Jan.
Four Lectures on Relativity and Space, McGraw,
Cable Charge and Discharge, AIEE Trans., XLII:
577-592, Jan. 1923 .
Overdamped Condenser Oscillations, AIEE Trans.,
XLIII:126-130, Jan. 1924.

10 Notes
[1] Quoting from Alger, Steinmetz was truly the patron saint
of the GE motor business.[2]
[2] Quoting from Hammond, This has placed him before the
public as an atheist.* The title he did not deny. The writer,
however, would put him down as a conrmed agnostic,
for an atheist is a person who knows there is no God, and
Steinmetz was not of that...[12]
[3] Wh = Bkmax , where is hysteresis coecient, is
maximum ux density and k is an empirical exponent.

11 References
[1] Charles Proteus Steinmetz. Invent Now, Inc. Hall of Fame
prole (Invent Now, Inc.). Retrieved 25 May 2014.
[2] Alger, P.L.; Arnold, R.E. (1976). The History of Induction Motors in America. Proceedings of the IEEE 64 (9):
13801383. doi:10.1109/PROC.1976.10329. Archived
from the original on October 13, 2014.


[3] Clemens, Nora; Greenberger, Robert. Discovering the Nature of Energy (1st ed.). New York: Rosen Publishing
Group. p. 78. ISBN 978-1448847020.

The Oxide Film Lightning Arrester, AIEE Trans.,

XXXVII(2):871-880, Jul. 18, 1918.

[4] Charles P. Steinmetz, scientist and socialist (1865-1923),

including the ... - Sender Garlin - Google Books

Americas Energy Supply,

XXXVII(2):985-1014,Jul. 18, 1918.

[5] Credo: Unitarians and Universalists of Yesteryear Talk

About Their Lives and ... - Don McEvoy - Google Books
[6] Charles Steinmetz: Unions Electrical Wizard. Union
College Magazine. November 1, 1998. Retrieved May 31,
[7] Retrieved November-2-2014
[8] The Magnetic Force of Charles Proteus Steinmetz.
IEEE Power Engineering Review 16 (9): 7. Feb 1996.
doi:10.1109/MPER.1996.535476. Archived from the
original on 25 May 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
[9] Bedell, Frederick. History of A-C Wave Form, Its Determination and Standardization. Transactions of the
American Institute of Electrical Engineers 61 (12): 865.
[10] Steinmetz, Putting it in Perspective - R, L, and C
Elements and the Impedance Concept (PDF). Zabreb
School of Engineering. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
[11] Charles Proteus Steinmetz. IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 8 August 2011.

Sender Garlin, Charles Steinmetz: Scientist and

Socialist (18651923): Including the Complete
Steinmetz-Lenin Correspondence. New York: American Institute for Marxist Studies, 1977. Reprinted
in Sender Garlins 1991 book Three Radicals.

James B. Gilbert, Collectivism and Charles Steinmetz, Business History Review, vol. 48, no. 4 (Winter 1974), pp. 520540. In JSTOR
Arthur Goodrich, Charles P. Steinmetz, Electrician, The Worlds Work, vol. 8 (June 1904), pp.
Larry Hart, Steinmetz in Schenectady: A Picture History of Three Memorable Decades. Old Dorp Books,
John Winthrop Hammond, Charles Proteus Steinmetz: A Biography. New York: The Century & Co.,

[12] Hammond, John Winthrop (1924). Charles Proteus Steinmetz: A biography. The Century & Co. p. 447.

Ronald R. Kline, Steinmetz: Engineer and Socialist. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press,

[13] Knowlton, A. E. (1949). Standard Electrical of Electrical

Engineers. McGraw-Hill. p. 49 (2.67), 323 (4.280).

Sigmund A Lavine, Steinmetz, Maker of Lightning.

Dodd, Mead & Co., 1955.

[14] Knowlton, p. 711 (7.207).

Jonathan Norton Leonard, Loki: The Life of Charles

Proteus Steinmetz. New York: Doubleday, 1929.

[15] Steinmetz Symposium: Celebrating 25 years of student

research. Union College. 9 May 2015.
[16] Steinmetz Park Association (2006). Steinmetz Park
Master Plan (PDF). Schenectady, N.Y. p. 3. Archived
from the original (PDF) on 20 November 2011. Retrieved
January 22, 2013.
[17] C. P. Steinmetz. Becklaser.
[18] The 42nd Parallel, p. 335.
[19] Smith, Dinitia (May 13, 2006). Starling Lawrence
Writes a Novel About the Early Days of G.E. The New
York Times.
[20] Electric City, Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2014, p. 53.
[21] Whitehead, John B., Jr. (1901). Review: Alternating Current Phenomena, by C. P. Steinmetz (PDF).
Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (3rd ed.) 7 (9): 399408.


Further reading

John Thomas Broderick, Steinmetz and His Discoveries. Robson & Adee, 1924.
Ernest Caldecott and Philip Langdon Alger (eds.),
Steinmetz the Philosopher. Schenectady, NY: Mohawk Development Service, 1965.

John Anderson Miller & Charles Proteus Steinmetz,

Modern Jupiter: The Story of Charles Proteus Steinmetz. American Society of Mechanical Engineers,
Floyd Miller, The Electrical Genius of Liberty Hall:
Charles Proteus Steinmetz. New York: McGrawHill, 1962.
Emil J. Remscheid & Virginia Remscheid Charves,
Recollections of Steinmetz: A Visit to the Workshops
of Dr. Charles Proteus Steinmetz. General Electric
Company, Research and Development, 1977.

13 External links
Charles Steinmetz: Unions Electrical Wizard,
Union College Magazine, November 1, 1998.
Finding Aid to Charles Steinmetz Papers, Schenectady County Historical Society.
Charles Proteus Steinmetz, the Wizard of Schenectady, Smithsonian Institution
Charles Proteus Steinmetz: Accomplishments and
Life, Edison Tech Center, Hall of Fame

United States Supreme Court, "Steinmetz v. Allen,
192 U.S. 543 (1904)". Steinmetz v. Allen, Commissioner of Patents. No. 383. Argued January 12,
13, 1904. Decided February 23, 1904.
Divine Discontent, a documentary on Steinmetz



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