George Westinghouse (1846-1914) American Inventor

George Westinghouse | Biography for Kids

George Westinghouse was born in Central Bridge, NY on October 6, 1846, to machine shop owner George Westinghouse and wife Emmeline. He was the eighth of ten children.

At the age of ten George and his family moved to Schenectady, New York, where his father would start G. Westinghouse & Company, and manufacture farm implements. While working with his father, George began to grow in his understanding of tools, materials and machinery.

At the age of fifteen, as the Civil War was just beginning, George enlisted in the New York National Guard. After additionally serving in both the U.S. Army and the navy for several years, he returned to his family in Schenectady, and enrolled at Union College. He soon lost interest, however, and dropped out after only three months.

In late 1865, at the age of 19, George had built his first invention for which he would soon receive a patent - the rotary steam engine. By the age of 21 he had also invented a "car replacer", which was used to guide derailed train cars back onto the tracks, and a "reversible frog", which was used with switches to guide trains onto one of two train tracks.

In 1867, George met and married Marguerite Erskine Walker. The couple moved into their first home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and soon after had their first and only child, George Westinghouse III.

Only two years later, in the year of 1869, Westinghouse would patent his most notable invention. Though it was not created without some measure of adversity. In fact, powerful railroad owner, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, once told him, "If I understand you, young man, you propose to stop a railroad train with wind. I have no time to listen to such nonsense." He dismissed George Westinghouse, and his new air brake. Westinghouse didn't give up, however, and in only a few years Vanderbuilt would replace his old hand brakes with Westinghouse's new design. The invention revolutionized the railroad industry. It not only made braking safer, but it also allowed trains to travel at much higher speeds. By 1905, more than 2 million trains were equipped with the Westinghouse Quick-Action Automatic Brake.

George Westinghouse died in New York City on March 12, 1914, at the age of 67. With over 400 patents to his name, including his automatic air brake, he left the world a safer place.


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George Westinghouse | Biography for Kids

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George Westinghouse | Biography for Kids

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George Westinghouse | Meet the Inventor Worksheet

Meet the Inventor Worksheet - George Westinghouse

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