Steinmetz’s contributions are actually not that great when compared to Edison’s

Caleb Seymour, Staff Writer

While walking the halls of Union, you may have come across an antique car in a glass case. Or, perhaps, you’ve been to Steinmetz Hall. Even if you split your time between Karp and the library, surely you know about Steinmetz Day, the one holiday that all Union students get off to give and attend student presentations.

All these fixtures of campus have a common namesake: Charles Proteus Steinmetz. To be fair, this man was an incredibly influential and prolific inventor and thinker, not just in the context of Union, but also the world.

But when compared to the inventor of the light bulb, we can’t help but rethink our admiration.

Steinmetz and Edison, compared:

As far as the famous War of the Currents goes, granted, the world’s entire power grid may be built on the principles of Steinmetz’ theories on alternating current, but all our devices like phones and laptops need an AC adapter, which converts alternating current to the direct current they need to charge and function.

In other words, the very gadgets that separate us from base animals, that allow us to watch hours of Netflix in the comfort of our beds rather than dig for grubs and worms and contract medieval diseases, run on Edison’s direct current.

Steinmetz compares favorably to Edison in at least one category: that of middle name. While Alva is undeniably a cool name, it pales in comparison to the Proteus monniker. Steinmetz had much cooler glasses, too.

Steinmetz may have had a wildly cool electric car (on display in Wold) way before Teslas were a symbol of both status and environmental consciousness, but what good is a car if you can’t bump music in it? Need I remind you that Thomas Edison invented the phonograph?

Also, Steinmetz has no answer to perhaps Edison’s most impressive invention: electronic voting. Edison’s first notable invention, patented in 1869, was a system to electronically record votes in legislative bodies such as Congress. This was designed to speed up the legislative process. Clearly today, when we look at the remarkable and famous efficiency of congress, we have Edison to thank.

Additionally, this device set in motion a trend which culminated more recently in the extremely reliable, near-perfect electronic voting machines used by many states in contemporary elections. Steinmetz just can’t compete with an invention of this magnitude.

In summary, perhaps it’s time for Union College to consider renaming our celebrated day of research presentation.

Yes, Steinmetz was known as The Wizard of Schenectady, but I think it’s clear that in a magical duel, Edison would overpower him with superior knowledge of arcane spells and conjurations. It’s time for Steinmetz Day to become Edison Day.