Invented the Polyphase Electric Motor?
After Galileo Ferraris died in 1897, Westinghouse(with Nikola
Tesla) manage to rewrite history using the US court system.
A perspective by M.W., part of the Engineering
Galileo Ferraris presented his theory of
a polyphase electric motor 8 months prior to Nikola Tesla applying
for a patent on the same technology, yet in the world of the 21st
century Telsa has received all the credit, how is this possible?
This situation is comparable to the situation in software today.
Some designers give away programs free via opensource, while others
make massive amounts of money off of the same technology. Who
is remembered 100 years later? Ferraris was a scientist, not an
entrepreneur, he published his results and invited strangers from
around the world to come and see his lab. Tesla and Westinghouse
had other motives.
We will look at the court cases that changed history and buried
Ferraris in the murky depths of history. These cases were between
competing corporations. This was not a competition between Ferraris
and Tesla in court. Other corporations stated that Ferraris had
published the polyphase motor before Tesla, therefore Tesla and
Westinghouse could not claim patent infringement.
Court Cases where Tesla had to prove he invented
the motor first:
1901 - Westinghouse Electric Mfg. Co. vs. New England Granite
1905 - Westinghouse vs. Dayton Fan and Motor Company
The first court case was first held in Catskill,
New York by the Circuit Court, The first case ruled in favor of
Tesla. The second court decision in the Circuit Court of Appeals
reversed the decision, ruling in favor of Ferraris, with proof
that a magazine had published Galileo Ferraris's work " by
which Prof. Galileo Ferraris, fully described and disclosed the
system covered by the patents in suit." - Hazel, District
Judge. The Federal Reporter Volume 129. page 213
The Final Decision 1905:
Ferraris officially lost recognition as the first
inventor of the polyphase motor in the final court battle, this
was ONLY due to a claim by three of Tesla's colleagues who were
witnesses that Tesla had conceived the motor in fall of 1887,
prior to Ferraris's publication. Tesla claimed he produced a prototype
motor, almost completely destroyed by fire. He claims the motor
had come from his New York City lab which had caught fire in 1895.
Somehow that motor was the only one to survive (hmmm), all others
had been completely destroyed... and there was no way to prove
the motor's age. Testimony depended entirely on the three witnesses,
one of which was not valuable because he had no knowledge of how
electricity worked. The judges themselves were barely qualified
to understand the technology and found the exhaustively long technical
descriptions by experts not much help in the decision. The judges
had to weigh the weak witness evidence which from his opinion
weighed in favor of Tesla. What about witnesses from Italy?
What about Ferraris? The man was dead and could
not provide proof, or discussion, or personal perspective, or
physical evidence to defend himself the way that Tesla could.
That doesn't sound quite fair.
one of America's earliest AC pioneers found the ongoing dispute
disturbing, stating about the prior court case: "[Judges
Townsend, Wallace, and Cox] after a most exhaustive and thorough
trial, lasting four years, decides that Mr. Tesla failed to
prove invention prior to the published description of the
same invention made by Professor Ferraris, of Turin, Italy"
"Professor Galileo Ferraris held the chair
of physics at the Academy of Sciences in Turin for many years.
In Europe he is universally acknowledged to be the original
inventor of the induction motor and power transmission system,"
Stanley also stated: " All foreign
scientific publications speak of the Ferraris motor, the Ferraris
principle and the Ferraris system, for he invented , constructed,
and described his work several years before Mr. Tesla claims
to have devised it."
And the most powerful statement by Stanley:
"I myself have seen the original motors, models, and drawings
made by Ferraris in 1885, have personally talked with the men
who saw these models in operation and heard Ferraris explain them
at that date." - from a letter to the Electrical Review on
March 16, 1903 [Electrical Review, Volume 42. 1903. Pg. 415]
Stanley would know because Westinghouse hired him
in 1885 to study the Gaulard and Gibbs transformers used by Ferraris
at the experimental AC systems in 1884 and 1885 at Turin. Westinghouse
had paid for use of the patents and assigned Stanley in charge
of building a new, better AC system, which
he did in 1886 at Great Barrington.
The gravity of the situation:
If Ferraris had been determined to be first, Westinghouse stood
to lose millions, and loose control of it's most valuable patents.
How much is it worth to them. Westinghouse had a reputation as
being "tricky" and "unethical", this was the
viewpoint by employees and former employees, for whatever that
hearsay is worth.
Some critical questions to ask would be:
How much money does it cost to buy a witness in the 1901?
How much coaching does it take to adjust his story of first seeing
the electric motor from 1888 to the year before?
(Speaking of witnesses Mr. Brown, Mr. Nellis)
How much (from a dollar standpoint) would a pro-Ferraris decision
would have hurt Westinghouse?
Tesla claimed he worked on the motor with a Mr. Szigeti, how come
the Mr. Szigeti could not be found for the trial?
Why did the burned motor prototype survive the fire by coincidence
yet all the other motors were completely destroyed?
So... Who invented the polyphase electric
motor first? Does it matter? Yes. Although Tesla deserves a great
deal of credit, he and Westinghouse lawyers do not have the right
to rewrite history in the name of corporate profits. Galileo Ferraris
has been erased from the public eye, but hopefully that will change.
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