George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius

George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius

George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius

George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius

Excerpt

I first heard the details of George Westinghouse’s amazing engineering career as a freshman in engineering at the University of Michigan. That may not seem too unusual, except I spent most of my early life going to school in the shadow of Westinghouse’s Union Switch and Signal plant in Swissvale, Pennsylvania (a borough of Pittsburgh) and a few miles from the site of the Westinghouse mansion in Homewood. I had crossed the Westinghouse Bridge in the family car often on the way to the then new Monroeville Mall, without a thought of who or what it was named after. In fact, while I knew many people who worked at Westinghouse Air Brake and Westinghouse Electric, I didn’t realize that “Switch and Signal” right down the street was a Westinghouse company.

Pittsburgh was still a Carnegie town in the 1960s. The great mills, which still turned day to night with smoke and colored the night sky with a fiery aurora borealis, drew the youthful minds toward Carnegie. Stories of Carnegie and working at his great mills were part of the local urban legends. The Carnegie name was everywhere, on plaques, signs, libraries, museums, awards, stamped on millions of books, and part of the local lore. Carnegie was Pittsburgh. Every child soon had to ask his parents what or who is Carnegie? That question would trigger many stories. Of course, every child’s rite of passage included a first trip to the Carnegie Museum in Oakland and its great dinosaurs, one of them even named after Carnegie. The Carnegie name . . .

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