Oliver B. Shallenberger

Oliver B. Shallenberger
Rochester, PA, USA
Death date


Oliver B. Shallenberger was born in 1860 in Rochester, Pennsylvania and is famous for the invention of the electrical meter for use in A.C. homes.

Shallenberger attended Beaver College for a short time and then the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1877. His uncle was a member of Congress and helped him get into the Academy. After serving a two year commitment on the U.S. Lancaster in the Mediterranean, he joined the Union Switch and Signal Company in Pittsburgh in 1884 under George Westinghouse. He became their Chief Electrician and began extensive research into Alternating Current electronics. He maintained his position as Chief Electrician as the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company was formed. Shallenberger was also elected an associate member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888. He retired in 1891 due to poor health but continued as a Consulting Electrician. In 1897 he settled in Colorado Springs and organized the Colorado Electric Power Company, serving as President until his death in 1898.

He invented a street-lighting system that would work even when one lamp failed, US Patent #740189A. He also created a method of connecting alternating current generators in a parallel circuit. He is primarily responsible for the general usage of alternating current through his inventions that showed that it was more efficient and safer to use than direct current.

Shallenberger's most famous invention, the electrical meter, was discovered by accident in 1888. A spring fell into a lamp and he observed that the spring rotated due to an electromagnetic force. In a few weeks he built an alternating current measuring meter, US Patent #449003. It was essentially a motor that measured the watt-hours consumed by a customer. It was known worldwide by the end of the century. This also put A.C. ahead of Edison's D.C. because he had no way of accurately measuring how much energy was consumed.

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