Charles Proteus Steinmetz

1865-1923

One of the greatest electrical engineers of all time. Born Karl August Rudolf Steinmetz in Breslau, Germany (now Wraclaw, Poland).

Steinmetz was an outspoken socialist all his life (which got him kicked out of Germany as a university student). His brand of socialism, however, looked very much like fascism. Hal Draper has written,

If one wants to see how thin the line can be between something called socialism and something like fascism, it is instructive to read the monstrous exposition of "socialism" written by the once famous inventor-scientist and Socialist Party luminary Charles P. Steinmetz. His America and the New Epoch (1916) sets down in deadly seriousness exactly the anti-utopia once satirized in a science-fiction novel, in which Congress has been replaced by direct senators from DuPont, General Motors and the other great corporations. Steinmetz, presenting the giant monopolistic corporations (like his own employer, General Electric) as the ultimate in industrial efficiency, proposes to disband the political government in favor of direct rule by the associated corporate monopolists.

It is clear, however, that Steinmetz's ideas sprang from a deeply humane, if in some ways naïve, desire to improve the lives of ordinary people. To him, the beehive was a model of a perfect society—a peaceful, happy, co-operative, productive community; not a prison full of automoton slaves, without individuality, mechanically toiling their lives away for the benefit of a bloated queen and her drones.

A member of the original Technical Alliance (which also included Thorstein Veblen and Leland Olds), Steinmetz had great faith in the ability of machines in the hands of efficient corporations—administered by technicians, not financiers—to eliminate human toil and create abundance for all. He put it this way: ``Some day we make the good things of life for everybody.''

A friend said of him, "Chapters have been written of his greatness intellectually; as many more could be filled with his kindnesses. Dwarfed, perhaps, in body, but with a heart as big as the universe and a soul as pure as a child's."

A fairly comprehensive site on Steinmetz's scientific accomplishments, with links to more sites, is here.

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