Westinghouse Gas Wells, Pittsburgh

George Westinghouse was born on October 6, 1846, in Central Bridge, New York. He dropped out of college after a few months and began his career as inventor extraordinaire, obtaining 361 patents.

Westinghouse’s venture with natural gas began in 1883 at his home “Solitude” in the Point Breeze section of Pittsburgh. It was known that natural gas was abundant in and around Pittsburgh, but natural gas was considered to be dangerous: it leaked out of every crevice or imperfection, and occasionally caused violent explosions. Drillers tapped a small vein of gas in Westinghouse’s back yard. At almost a third of a mile, on May 29, 1884, they found much more than expected. Westinghouse devised a stopcock and brought the roaring jet of fuel under control.

By the beginning of the summer, he obtained his first major patent for a “System for Conveying and Utilizing Gas Under Pressure.” By the end of the summer, he organized the Philadelphia Company. One after another, Westinghouse poured forth twenty-eight new inventions in 1884 and 1885. He devised better methods of digging gas wells, a meter for measuring the amount of gas used, methods of preventing and detecting leaks, a regulator for controlling the amount of air combining with gas in a steam furnace, and an automatic control which shut off the main supply of gas whenever the pressure fell below the point at which gas flames would die.

He died on March 12, 1914, in New York City, at age 67.