Charles Steinmetz

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Carl August Rudolph Steinmetz was born on April 9, 1865 in Breslau, Prussia into a Jewish family (Steinmetz, 1865-1923). Today, he is known as Charles Proteus Steinmetz and one of the great mathematicians and electrical engineers for his time. Unfortunately, Steinmetz was born with the genetics of his father and grandfather which consisted of dwarfism, hunchback, and hip dysplasia. Because of his disabilities, he found himself out casted by the rest of the kids his age. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he was not a very good performer in school and at the young age of eight and struggled with multiplication tables. Steinmetz would quickly figure out his schooling and by the age of ten he was one of the smartest kids in his school. As he continued to excel through the school ranks he would eventually, enroll at the University of Breslau to obtain his undergraduate degree in 1883 (Steinmetz, 1865-1923). The University of Breslau had an outstanding reputation in its physics department especially when it came to electro physics. It also was well known for its mathematics department. It was here where Steinmetz would join the Socialist Club because he was a man who truly believed that the world should share the world’s riches (Flynn). Nearing his completion of his undergraduate degree Steinmetz was forced to leave the University of Breslau because of his socialist beliefs. These socialist beliefs were banned by Germany who was then ruled by Kaiser Wilhelm II (Charles P. Steinmetz). The Chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck, was also one of the men who would frown upon these socialist actions (Flynn). After this incident, Steinmetz decided to flee Germany and head to Zurich, Switzerland. Once in Zurich, he would enroll at the Polytechnic Institute where he would study engineering for a semester. While attending Polytechnic Institute, he would publish two articles. The first article was electrical engineer based pertaining to the resistance of conductors, while the second article was more mathematic based involving the theory of the transformer (Steinmetz, 1865-1923). Since he had received so much unwanted attention and controversy in Germany, Breslau police would issue a warrant for his arrest in 1889 (Steinmetz, 1865-1923). After receiving this news, Steinmetz realized he had no choice but to immigrate to the United States so that he would not be arrested.

On June 1, 1889, Steinmetz and his friend Oscar Asmussen arrived in New York harbor where they would keep their fingers crossed hoping to have no trouble with customs officials. Once again, Steinmetz would run into trouble. With his rare four foot three inch tall body type and swollen face, they would have him step aside from the rest of the arrivals and tell him he was going to be sent back to Germany. Luckily, Oscar would save the day by showing the custom officials that he Steinmetz was a rich mathematician genius and would persuade them to let Steinmetz through (Flynn). After getting through customs, Steinmetz thought it would be a good idea to change his name to Charles Proteus Steinmetz. He figured that Charles sounded more American and he chose the middle name of Proteus because it reminded him of the childhood taunts given to him by his classmate. He also thought Proteus was fitting because Proteus was a character from the Odyssey who was a wise hunchbacked man who knew many secrets (Steinmetz, the Wizard). Now that he “Americanized” himself he had great aspirations of using his mathematical and electrical engineering knowledge to make a difference in society.

Steinmetz would finally be able to put his knowledge to work when he received a letter of introduction from an American engineer and friend, Rudolph Eickenmeyer, asking him if he would like a job at his company, Osterheld and Eickenmeyer, which was located in Yonkers, New York (Improvements). Once he got his feet in the door, he would take this opportunity and run with it. He would quickly gain a reputation...
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