Rebirth of Reason

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Westinghouse (2008)

Starring: George Westinghouse, Nikola Telsa, Thomas Edison, Carol Lee Espy (narrator)
Director: Mark Bussler and Edwin K. Reis
Sanctions: 5
Sanctions: 5
"George Westinghouse is considered America’s greatest industrialist ... The Westinghouse air brake is considered one of the most important inventions in history. Automobile shock absorbers, railroad signaling and the modern day weekend all owe their existence to [Westinghouse].  He was an honest millionaire in the days of robber barons, an optimist in the days of skeptics, and a generous CEO from whom today’s executives can learn."

Burton W. Folsom, Jr.'s The Myth of the Robber Barons does not mention George Westinghouse.  The eighth of ten children, Geogre Jr. grew up in his father's factory, happier with machines than in school.  A foreman set aside a work area for the lad.  Westinghouse invented the railroad airbrake.  He lighted the Columbian Exposition.  He lighted Buffalo from Niagara Falls.  He hired Nikola Tesla -- and got out of his way.

Westinghouse became a household name, almost an incantation: "You can be sure if it's Westinghouse."  From the first profitable AC motors to nuclear power plants, from gas lighting to electric ranges, the Westinghouse company was arguably the largest industrial enterprise in America. 

The Library of Congress (here) says:
"This prolific inventor influenced the course of history by enabling the growth of the railroads through his inventions and by promoting the use of electricity for power and transportation. As an industrial manager, his influence on industrial history is considerable, having formed and directed more than 60 companies to market his and others' inventions during his lifetime. His electric company became one of the greatest electric manufacturing organizations in the United States, and his influence abroad was evident by the many companies he founded in other countries."
American Heritage (here) tells the story of the New York Centra's Wappinger Creek disaster and the air brake of the 22-year old inventor whose mechanism could have prevented it.   Not content with a positive lock, Westinghouse modified his design into a fail-safe: loss of control engaged the safety.

When natural gas was discovered on his homestead property in Pittsburgh, he harnessed it, and went into the natural gas business. Having learned to conceptualize the delivery of "pressure" he later jumped at alternating current electricity with its induction coils and transformers to send electricity over dozens of miles, while Edison struggled to push electrons over a distance of 1000 yards.

George Westinghouse was a hands-on engineer, a brilliant industrialist, and a visionary who had the good fortune to live a long life (67 years) and die before World War I closed the curtain on the greatest age of invention in human history.

Available on Amazon, also direct from the distributor, Janson Media.
Added by Michael E. Marotta
on 12/07/2010, 6:54pm

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