How the Unsung Heroes of Yesteryear Wired Nations and Powered Progress


The advent of electricity fundamentally transformed society, enabling innovations that improved quality of life. Yet we often overlook the pioneers who made this possible - the unsung heroes who wired nations and powered progress. In this article, I will highlight some of these trailblazers and their invaluable contributions. Though underappreciated, their work lit up cities, brought electricity into homes, and laid the groundwork for today's electrically-powered world.

Thomas Edison - Father of Electric Light

The lightbulb, perhaps more than any other invention, symbolizes the dawn of the electrical age. And Thomas Edison deserves much credit for making electric lighting practical. In 1879, after testing thousands of materials, Edison and his researchers finally created a lasting incandescent lightbulb. With the creation of the Edison Electric Light Company, he then oversaw the installation of electrical systems in cities across America and Europe.

"I will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles." - Thomas Edison

Edison's persistence and innovations, from the lightbulb to the first power grids, illumination changed from a luxury to an everyday necessity. His developments also enabled countless future breakthroughs that depend on electricity.

Nikola Tesla - Father of Alternating Current

The "War of Currents" between Thomas Edison (a proponent of direct current or DC) and Nikola Tesla (champion of alternating current or AC) shaped the early electrical industry. Tesla's advocacy for AC eventually won out, primarily because AC could transmit power over greater distances.

Nikola Tesla designed AC generators and motors. His inventions of transformers and transmission lines were pivotal in providing electricity to society on a wide scale. Though Edison rejected his ideas at first, Tesla's AC systems became the standard for electrical transmission worldwide. His innovations laid the foundations for modern power grids supplying electricity to businesses, homes, and infrastructure.

Samuel Insull - The Man Who Lit Chicago

Chicago earned the nickname "City of Lights" thanks to the pioneering work of Samuel Insull. Born in England, Insull emigrated to the United States and became Thomas Edison's right-hand man. When he moved to Chicago, Insull dedicated himself to building up the city's electricity infrastructure.

He founded Chicago Edison Company and tirelessly grew the business, providing homes and businesses with electric light. By 1907, Insull's company illuminated over one million lights across Chicago. His influence shaped Chicago's electric industry for decades to come. Moreover, Insull's holding company model became the predecessor to modern electric utilities.

George Westinghouse - Bringing Electricity from Innovator to Consumer

Without visionary entrepreneurs like George Westinghouse, the work of inventors like Nikola Tesla may have never reached the masses. Westinghouse recognized the advantages of Tesla's AC systems early on and obtained patents to provide AC electricity on a large scale.

"If someday they say of me that in my work I have contributed something to the welfare and happiness of my fellow man, I shall be satisfied." - George Westinghouse

His Westinghouse Electric Company installed AC networks across the United States. Westinghouse brought key innovations like transformers and AC motors into everyday use. By licensing Tesla's patents and building national infrastructure, Westinghouse enabled public access to electricity.

Charles Proteus Steinmetz - Pioneer of Electric Engineering

As a brilliant mathematics professor and engineer, Charles Proteus Steinmetz made groundbreaking strides in electrical engineering. He fostered a deeper understanding of AC power systems. Famous for his law on hysteresis losses, Steinmetz enhanced the performance and efficiency of AC motors and generators.

Steinmetz also developed devices like the lightning arrester. Working for General Electric in the early 1900s, his contributions helped optimize AC power equipment. Steinmetz thus played a role in both the scientific and commercial expansion of AC electrical systems pioneered by innovators like Nikola Tesla.


The pioneering work of electrification's unsung heroes illuminates just how much we owe to early researchers, inventors, and industrialists. Their vision and persistence built the strong electrical foundations powering modern technology and living standards. As we enjoy the conveniences enabled by electricity, we should acknowledge the ripple effects from inventors like Edison and Tesla, as well as businessmen like Insull and Westinghouse. Their collaboration and creativity lit up cities, delivered electricity to homes, and electrified society in ways that still benefit us all today.