L. Alger [1894 –
Alger was graduated from St.
John’s College of Annapolis,
Md., in 1912
and from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1915 with a B.S. degree in
engineering. He earned the M.S. degree from Union College
in 1920. St. John’s awarded him an
in 1915, and the University
of Colorado an
Doctor of Engineering degree in 1969. He worked for the General
Company as a designing, staff, and consulting engineer until his
1959. From 1959 to 1969 he was Consulting Professor of Electrical
at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The author of more than 100
papers and three books, Mathematics for Science and Engineering,
Machines, and The Human Side of Engineering, he edited the book, The Life and Times of Gabriel Kron. In
1959 he received the Lamme Medal of the A.I.E.E.
Philip Alger was a man whose courage, foresight,
ability brought many important innovations to electric power during the
half of this century. In 1894, the year Alger was born, Steinmetz,
and others engaged in extensive discussions of the merits of the
motor that Nikola Tesla had given to the world a few years previously.
became the role of Philip Alger, engineer and mathematician, to
unravel its mysteries.
Electric career began in
1919 after he had served as a lieutenant in the Ordnance Department of
early work on motor reactance produced, first, induction motors, and
synchronous motors capable of direct, across-the-line starting, greatly
motor controls. His 1928 AlEE paper, "The Calculation of Armature
Reactance of Synchronous Machines," remains a classic in the annals of
rotating electric machinery.
In 1929 Alger was
appointed to the staff of
the vice president of engineering to sponsor and coordinate
electric apparatus throughout the General Electric Company. He became a
in professional engineering societies, in industry-wide standardization
education, and in local government, as well as in technology. He was
by the observation that men are creatures of habit, and he realized
must first have the wisdom to recognize what is sound and then have the
to propose it, even when this means breaking with tradition.
Alger saw clearly
that for the greater
expansion of electrification in industry, motors must be made smaller
lighter in weight for the same output. This task required the critical
examination of many traditions in design engineering and among motor
many published papers give only a glimpse of the extent of his
a worker and leader of the committee and working groups of AlEE and ASA
led ultimately to the adoption of a succession of new NEMA standards
motors in the 1940s. Motors built to those standards weighed less than
as much as their predecessors of the late 1920s. They were quieter and
their jobs as well or better.
career, Philip Alger has
paralleled his technical work with equally vigorous pursuits in other
said with pride that he tried never to refuse an invitation, the advice
Benjamin Franklin. This brought him to the fields of professional and
standards for engineers, engineering education and recruiting
local government, all of which have enriched the lives of others as
well as his
own. His career truly epitomizes the complete professional engineer.
Philip Alger died
in September, 1979.