William J. Foster

William J. Foster
Argyle, NY, USA
Associated organizations
Thomson-Houston, General Electric (GE)
Fields of study
AIEE Lamme Medal


William J. Foster was born in Argyle, NY on September 17, 1860. After receiving an A.B. from Williams College in 1884, he remained a year for advanced work in mathematics. During the next 5 years, he taught high school subjects, and made an intensive study of physics. In 1891 he was conferred a M.S. by Cornell University. In the summer of that year Dr. Foster began his engineering career in the Thomson-Houston works at Lynn, MA, being engaged in the design of d-c machines and synchronous converters. In 1892 he became designing engineer. In 1894 he became designing engineer for the General Electric Company at Schenectady, in general charge of electrical design of a-c machines. For about 25 years thereafter he was in charge of practically all the designs and calculations on a-c machines, he himself designing many of the most important generators that were built by the company. Through Dr. Steinmetz, with whom he worked closely for many years, he prepared many of the standards adopted by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE, now IEEE). Dr. Foster spent his late career as consulting engineer for the General Electric Company.

He was a member of the AIEE committee on electrical machinery 1920-30 and of the meetings and papers committee 1928-29. The 1930 Lamme Medal of the AIEE was presented to William James Foster “for his contributions to the design of rotating a-c machinery,” and for his long record of service in the design of motors and generators and his many inventions in that field.