Saturday, January 22, 2011

C.P. Steinmetz (LOC)

C.P. Steinmetz (LOC)
Originally uploaded by The Library of Congress

No man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions. --Charles Proteus Steinmetz

New in the Flickr Commons this week, a fine portrait of Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923), a Prussian-born mathematician. He was just 23 when he finished his doctoral work at Breslau; soon after, he immigrated into the United States. As a dwarf with a hunched back and no money, he was nearly refused entry at Ellis Island; but he was traveling with someone who was able to convince the inspectors that he was actually brilliant and rich scientist. He went to work as an electrical engineer, designing motors and power systems.

Two years after coming to America, Steinmetz patented a means of transmitting alternating current (A/C). It was the first of his 200+ patents in the US., most of them bought by the General Electric Company. Steinmetz, a committed socialist, was also president of the Board of Education in Schenectady NY, and presided over the city council as well. He was an officer in the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. He also studied lightning at a campsite he built on the Mohawk River, and published a book of essays on science and religion. He was even responsible for ensuring that every orphan in Schenectady received a present at Christmas.

From 1902 to 1913, Steinmetz was head of the School of Electrical Engineering at Union College. Today, the annual Steinmetz Symposium at Union College is an undergraduate research expo; there is also a Steinmetz Hall at Union College. A short recording of his speech, with film clips and stills, is on YouTube (with subtitles for his accented English). The IEEE has a Steinmetz Award for advancements in electrical and electronics engineering.

Further reading:

Floyd Miller, The Electrical Genius of Liberty Hall: Charles Proteus Steinmetz (McGraw Hill 1962).

Ronald Kline, Steinmetz: Engineer and Socialist (Johns Hopkins University Press 1998).

1 comment:

Michael Bullis said...

I'm the Executive Direcgtor of the IMAGE Center for people with Disabilities in Baltimore Maryland. We're collecting information from people with disabilities, like ourselves, who have techniques they use to help people become comfortable with their disabilities.

I'm hoping that you might help us by telling us your techniques and by spreading the word about this project.
It's possible that some ice-breaker you use will be of value to someone else, or, it's possible that what they do could be of use to you.
Just let us know. Some people raise questions about whether some technique or other is "apropriate." That is, something like using self depricating humor. We understand there is controversy about some of these things but would prefer that everyone forget about that for a moment and just send along their methods of helping people become comfortable with disability.
We'll collect everything and send it back out to the disability community. Our final goal is to develop this body of knowledge and use it with our students to help them master a series of techniques they are comfortable with when dealing with family members, friends or associates, and employers.
People can respond in one of two ways. Either send the information to me, Michael Bullis, or comment on our wall on our facebook page at
The Image Center for People with Disabilities.
If you'd like to send videos, that's fine as well.
Thanks to everyone for your help.
Michael Bullis
The IMAGE Center,
Towson Maryland