Milestone-Proposal:Weston Meters

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Docket #:2013-31

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on "Edit with form", check the "Submit this proposal for review" box at the bottom, and save the page.

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s fields of interest? (e.g. “the theory and practice of electrical, electronics, communications and computer engineering, as well as computer science, the allied branches of engineering and the related arts and sciences” – from the IEEE Constitution) Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an Electrical Engineering Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Dynamo to Precision Meters: The contibutions of Edward Weston

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

Edward Weston’s 334 patents made revolutionary contributions to the use and measurement of electricity. Among his contributions he replaced batteries with dynamos in the electroplating industry, improved the lifetime of the incandescent lamp filament by 100 fold, invented the use of laminated cores for generators, and developed a practical precision, direct reading, portable current meter which became the basis for the voltmeter, ammeter and watt meter.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: North New Jersey Section
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: North New Jersey Section
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: North New Jersey Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Section chair name masked to public

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Proposer's name masked to public
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

141 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07102

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need.

The intended site is the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building on the campus of New Jersey Institute of Technology. The original factory and buildings are believed to be no longer standing. Edward Weston was also a founder of NJIT and left his instrument collection and papers to the University. There is a museum to his contributions in the university Library and additional early instruments on display n the ECE building.

Are the original buildings extant?

I don't believe so although I am in the process of checking.

Details of the plaque mounting:

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

A letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property:

A letter or email from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application:

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

The late 1800’s was the Dawn of the widespread use of electricity. Power companies were establishing themselves and building distribution systems to supply power for industrial and consumer uses. Street lighting using Arc lamps was introduced. The patent wars over the invention of the incandescent light bulb were fought as electric lighting became cost effective and a competitor to gas lighting. This rise required instruments to quantify the electricity. Efficiencies of motors and generators needed to be measured. Supplied Voltages and currents needed to be controlled. Delivered power needed to be measured for billing. However, there was no good way to measure these quantities of electricity. Edward Weston invented solutions to all of the outstanding problems and brought the first reliable, repeatable, calibrated and portable instruments to market helping to enable the rapid expansion and acceptance of the use of electricity.

"Thomas Edison started the electric power and light industries in 1879. Electricity was not metered yet, so electrical measurement became vital as a means to buy and sell set amounts of electricity. Furthermore,these new industries each required multiple power generators with accurate voltmeters, ammeters,and wattmeters. The first electronic measurement instruments were difficult to transport,difficult to use and not suited to work in a laboratory" [1].

"Initially he [Edison] started out with a per-lamp rate. This was unsatisfactory so he developed a chemical ampere-hour meter that consisted of a jar holding two zinc plates connected across a shunt in the customer's circuit. Each month the electrodes were weighed and the customer's bill determined from the change in their weight. This meter was inefficient and error-prone. [2]

For a more complete description of the electrochemical metering of Edison see “Six Years practical experience with the Edison Chemical Meter” [3]

"When measurements of the value of electrical appliances are actually made, the results are often discredited because of doubt as' to the accuracy of the instruments used, and probably the general indifference to accurate work manifested by many electricians may be justly ascribed to the absence of reliable measuring instruments."[4]

Weston was inspired to start his company after having been hired as a consultant to measure the efficiency of a generator [5]. This took a week to perform. This was typical of the time.

By creating a very stable, robust, calibrated and portable instrument Weston solved several key problems of prior meters including: lack of the ability to calibrate them due to influence of earth’s magnetic field and the lack of permanent magnets, sensitivity to resistive heating during measurement, lack of accuracy lack of repeatability, complexity of making measurements. These meters became the standard of measurement internationally aiding in the rapid spread and acceptance of the use of electricity.

[1] E. Matsumoto, "Edward Weston Made His Mark on the History of Mesurement," IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine, pp. 46-50, 2003. [2] "Watthourmeter," [Online]. Available: [Accessed 7 February 2014]. [3] W. J. JENKS., "Six Years' Practical Experience WITH THE Edison Electrical Meter," journal of the AIEE, vol. VI, no. 2, pp. 2-45, 1889. [4] "THe New Weston Voltmeter," Science, pp. 97-99, 8 Februar 1889. [5] W. E. I. Company, Measuring Invisibles, Weston Electrical Instrument Company, 1938.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

There were a variety of measurement instruments available at the time. Perhaps most importantly, none of them could be accurately calibrated.[1] All instruments of the time that used permanent magnets suffered from the decay over time of these magnets making the instruments fundamentally unable to be calibrated[2]. Instruments using electromagnets also could not be calibrated because of the hysteresis inherent in the soft magnetic materials[2]. It was a tedious business to measure a current in milliamps.[2] Existing instruments were also sensitive to variations in the earth’s magnetic field and hence required instantaneous measurements of the earth’s field at the same time as reading the meter. They tended to be very delicate. Those with suspended coils had to be leveled while those with lamps required careful set up and alignment.

Additional difficulties faced by all instruments to some degree included [1],[2]: Instability of readings because of resistive heating of the coils during measurement causing resistivity changes resulting in changes of the meter readings, insufficient damping of the indicators, restoring springs were made of steel and interfered with the magnetic circuit stability as well as providing too high a resistance. [3] Meters tended to overheat if left in the circuit for long enough to take a reading [4] and the changing resistivity with temperature of the coils further aggravated the measurement difficulties. This was believed to be an inherent problem as the Physics community of the time believed that positive temperature coefficient of resistance was one of the defining features of a metal.[3]

Meters measured either small or large currents but all had a limited range. Large voltages required a large resistor in series with the meter, however all resistors also had substantial temperature coefficients of resistance so that the act of making the measurement affected the resistance and altered the reading. Large currents required very thick copper wires leading to the coils and coils with large current carrying capacities.

[1] "THe New Weston Voltmeter," Science, pp. 97-99, 8 Februar 1889. [2] C. N. Brown, "Edward Weston and His Meter," in Sixteenth I.E.E. Week-End Meeting on the History of Electrical Engineering, 1988. [3] D. O. Woodbury, A Measure for Greatness: A Short Biography of Edward Weston, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Company, 1949. [4] A. L. M. C. s. C. A. AAIEE, "GENERATION DISTRIBUTION AND MEASUREMENT OF ELECTRICITY FOR LIGHT AND POWER APPLIANCES THEREFOR AND PARTICULARS OF CANADIAN INSTALLATIONS," Electric Power, vol. II, p. 266, 1890.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

References to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or citations to pages in scholarly books. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article.

[1]David O. woodbury, "A Measure for Greatness", McGRAW-HILL Comp. (1949) [2]John H Miller,"Weston Technical Monograph", (Weston Co.),1977) [3]Eiju MATSUOT,"Edward Weston Made His Mark on the History of Instrumentation",IEEE Instrumentation Magazine,(2003) [4]A. L. M. C. s. C. A. AAIEE, "GENERATION DISTRIBUTION AND MEASUREMENT OF ELECTRICITY FOR LIGHT AND POWER APPLIANCES THEREFOR AND PARTICULARS OF CANADIAN INSTALLATIONS," Electric Power, vol. II, p. 266, 1890

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Sect Chrs Apprvl.doc
Sect Chrs Apprvl.doc