WHOA! Is that — is that Arthur E. Kennelly?! DUDE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Arthur E. Kennelly (17 December 1861-18 June 1939)!
What a crazy mustache, mandingo!
Arthur E. Kennelly was a self-taught physicist, which is pretty awesome among itself. Art started off his career as an office boy for the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEEE) when he was in his teenage years – which I am assuming sparked the love of voltage and electrons. I mean, I gotta believe that Arty-Boy here was a pretty smart dude, and growing into his own around the people that were shaping the Electrical Engineering world at the time was good for him. After all, education back in the 1880’s was probably a sight better than it is now. What a shame, huh?
After working for the Institute for Electrical Engineers, Art worked as a telegraph operator for a little while, and then he met Thomas Alva Edison, who hired him as one of his Mucker electricians. From 1894 and 1901, Kennelly was a consulting engineer for Edison General Electric Company of New York – Kennelly and a guy named Harold P. Brown then worked as a team that invented an alternating current version of the Electric Chair. Yep. All because Edison wanted to show how dangerous Westinghouse’s alternating current really was.
At least Art went on to make more contributions to science.
After his time at Edison’s place, Kennelly formed Houston and Kennelly in Philadelphia with Edwin J. Houston. In 1902, the government of Mexico retained Houston and Kennelly to oversee the laying of the Veracruz-Frontera-Campeche cables.
Kennelly also dabbled in academia — as a Professor of Electrical Engineering both at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and as a research associate at the Carnegie-Mellon Institute. Kennelly was said to be an awesome teacher too – from a biography of his life and work:
All who were his students remember him as a remarkable teacher, whose clarity and precision of expression made smooth the path of those struggling with the often abstruse intricacies of electrical phenomena. Moreover, there was always a bit of humor to relieve the tedium.
Pretty cool. A teacher who was smart AND funny? LAWS YES!
Arty Boy did a lot with complex analysis of electrical theory and study. Have you ever heard of the E-Region in the Ionosphere? It used to be called the Kennelly Heaviside Layer, after him and a guy named Oliver Heaviside. It’s the region of the ionosphere that reflects medium-strength radio waves, allowing them to be propagated past the horizon. He also holds (or held, rather) patents on the Electric Meter and the Electrostatic Voltmeter.
Kennelly wrote a LOT of material, including the famous paper entitled “Impedance,” which he developed after applying some complex math to Ohm’s calculations. I think I want to buy Kennelly a beer. Wait, no, he’s dead.
Happy Birthday, Arthur E. Kennelly! You are truly one of the not-quite-publicized-yet-ridiculously-important members of Electric History.