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Oral-History:Lee Kilgore

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About Lee Kilgore

Lee Kilgore was born in 1905 in Leavitt, Nebraska, the son of a sign painter. While attending the University of Nebraska's engineering school, he took summer jobs that eventually led him to work at Westinghouse. He spent his career working on various technologies used in power generation, including generators and switchgear, as well as motors for wind tunnels. At the time of the interview, Kilgore had retired but was continuing to work as a consultant.

The interview covers Kilgore's childhood and education and his decision to pursue studies in power engineering rather than the more fashionable communications. He outlines his early work at Westinghouse and his rise through various levels of management. Kilgore discusses his most interesting and ambitious engineering projects, competition with other firms such as General Electric, and his philosophy of engineering.


About the Interview

LEE KILGORE: An Interview Conducted by William Aspray, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, December 8, 1993

Interview #180 for the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Lee Kilgore, an oral history conducted in 1993 by William Aspray, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


Interview

INTERVIEW: Lee Kilgore
INTERVIEWED BY: William Aspray
PLACE: Pittsburgh, PA
DATE: December 8, 1993

Family Background and Education

Aspray:

Why don't you begin by telling me where you were born and what your parents did?

Kilgore:

I was born in 1905 in a very small town in Nebraska which no longer exists. It was a town built around a sugar beet factory — Leavitt, Nebraska, near Fremont. It closed down, so my folks moved to Fremont, which is a fair-sized town for Nebraska, about 10,000 or 12,000 then and maybe 18,000 people now.

Aspray:

What did your parents do?

Kilgore:

My father was a sign painter, and when he wasn't busy painting signs, he did paper-hanging and some other house painting. But he painted. He thought of himself as an artist. He used to paint really big billboards with cattle and various things pictured on them. And he was an amateur poet and wrote poetry for the local newspaper. But he hadn't had much education. He was born in western Pennsylvania, but his father homesteaded in Nebraska. His mother died, and his father remarried. My father never got along with his stepmother or even with his father. At an early age he ran away from home and ended up in Fremont, Nebraska, and married my mother. He was always a good parent but I think because he had been abused as a child, I've never seen him strike either me or my two brothers. There were only three boys in the family.

I went to school there in Fremont. They had an excellent school there. There was a great old superintendent that insisted on good teachers. Years later when my own children went to school in Pennsylvania, I didn't think it was as good a school as I had in Nebraska many years before. In fact in high school we even had a course in economics taught by the principal, and good mathematics and that sort of thing. So I was a good student, near the top if not the top of the class, and went on to the University of Nebraska.

My parents certainly weren't wealthy and couldn't afford to send me. I had to earn my own way through. I worked every summer and a good many Saturdays during the year for a tree nursery, the old Plumfield Nursery. It was good healthy work. Mostly outdoors. I had saved and was allowed to spend my earned money on my own clothes, and then save what I could to go to college. So when I finished, I had saved $400, which doesn't sound like much, but in those days it was quite a bit. In fact, that plus what I had earned while I was in school got me through. My folks didn't contribute anything, and I didn't borrow anything. I managed to get through.

Aspray:

When you were a child, did you have hobbies? Were you interested in ham radio?

Kilgore:

Yes. My brother Ross, who is also an electrical engineer, was with Westinghouse. He ended up with RCA and came back to Westinghouse many years later. He was down in the Baltimore Electronics Division. He was an early radio chap and a real radio amateur. I dabbled in it, but I never could pass the test. In those days you had to take ten- or twenty-words-a-minute code, and I never did that. My brother and I both liked to experiment with little electrical things. We studied all the books we could find, both on the theory and on how to make things.

Aspray:

Were they available in your local library?

Kilgore:

Yes. We had a very good Carnegie Library in this little town, and I spent a good deal of time there. One of our hobbies was building kites. We built really big, seven- or eight-foot bow kites. We would use about a half a mile of binding twine. We used to have a lot of fun with that. We had ideas of building a glider, but we never did succeed. My brother was one year younger than I. I was a good student, but he was always the top, both in high school and in his class in college. I was close to the top; another chap and I sort of divided the top honors in electrical engineering. I studied hard, and resolved that if I could concentrate on my studies and watch my money, I might get through school. But I couldn't afford any social life, so I just avoided that completely. Of course after the first year I had my brother with me down there. We roomed and lived very, very cheaply, eating at the school cafeteria for 60 cents a day. [Chuckling] I did odd jobs, and after the first year I worked as a lab assistant in the school grading papers and that sort of thing. I managed to get through.

Aspray:

Did you know when you went off to school what you wanted to study?

Deion Breaker Design

Kilgore:

Yes, I did. I had a cousin called Doc Harding. He may have had a doctor's degree in math. He wasn't a doctor of engineering. He was considerably older. He was from North Carolina, where my mother was from, and he was working for Westinghouse. So I had some idea that I wanted to get into that kind of work. But the real opportunity came between my junior and senior year. Westinghouse started, for the first time, what they called a Junior Student course. They picked some top students from around the country — I don't know how many of us there were; maybe 40 all together. We came to Westinghouse in East Pittsburgh for the summer, and at least in my case, I had very interesting work. I was assigned to a relay engineer, and he was busy, so he thought he'd give me something to keep me busy all summer. I was assigned to build a small circuit breaker, built on the new principle that Dr. Slepian of Westinghouse Research had developed, which he called a "Deion breaker." The idea was to keep the arc moving so fast that when the current went to zero, it would go out. It was an a.c. breaker. So I built a little circular magnet racetrack with a magnet, to move the arc. I got it built in their tool-making department, and got it tested all in the three months I was there in the summer. Looking back on it, it was sort of a record, I think, in the sense that nowadays it seems to take a good deal longer to get anything built and tested.

Aspray:

Did the company ever do something with it?

Kilgore:

Not the exact piece that I made. It was never built for production. The principle went on to be applied in larger breakers. One nice thing about it was I had an opportunity at least twice to talk to Dr. Slepian about it. He gave me a great deal of help. We ran across one principle that I was working with, which I call the "principle of superposition." It was well known that in linear circuits you could superimpose voltages and the currents produced by different voltages, and add them up. But I was working with magnetic fields and he helped me to understand that you could apply this concept to electric and magnetic fields as well as circuits. That proved very useful over the years, and it's something that I think has been neglected in the teaching of electrical science, this concept of superposition. It's really the basis for a lot of things we do, but we just don't recognize it as such. But if you fully understand it, you can apply it always. So, that was an inducement to come back to Westinghouse when I graduated. That first year ended, I looked around because I wasn't sure I wanted to work on relays and small circuit breakers and that sort of thing.

University of Nebraska

Aspray:

Before you go on, maybe I should ask you some questions about your education at the university. Was there a program in electrical engineering at the university?

Kilgore:

Yes. They had a good one under old Dr. J.O. Ferguson, who had been with the General Electric Company. I don't know how he became a dean at the engineering school in Nebraska. But he was a good man, and he had good professors. We had very good math professors at least. The engineering professors were maybe not the best, but if you had good textbooks, you could always learn — whether the professor knew it or not.

Aspray:

Was the curriculum in electrical engineering power and telephone?

Kilgore:

Right. I guess they called it "communications." But I chose the power end of it. My brother was a radio man, and I stuck to the power end of the business.

Aspray:

How did you do in your course work?

Kilgore:

Henry Meyers and I together were the top of the class. Nobody was picked out as the top of the class. I don't know what the grade average would be, but it was pretty close to the top.

Aspray:

Was there any consideration of having gone to school any place other than the University of Nebraska?

Kilgore:

Hardly for me because, as I said, tuition was free. You actually paid some fees and of course I bought second-hand books. But it was very, very inexpensive — maybe $20 a semester. I don't know what it cost me, but that was the main reason I went to Nebraska. And it was reasonably handy. Lincoln is about 60 miles from my hometown. I could go by train and didn't get home more than once a semester. That's why I ended up at Nebraska. It was a good school, for practical engineering.

Aspray:

Did you give any thought to any other major or any other career while you were there?

Kilgore:

No. I was pretty concentrated on the power side of electrical engineering. I confirmed that in this year I spent — between the junior and senior years — at East Pittsburgh.

Aspray:

So you would have graduated around 1927?

Kilgore:

That's right, 1927.

Summer Work for Northwestern Bell

Aspray:

What was the job market like at that time?

Kilgore:

Well, it happened to be pretty good that particular year. A few years before there had been a small recession in which an older boy that I knew graduated and couldn't get a job. So he ended up in an insurance company. He married the daughter of the people that owned the insurance company, so he made out all right. [Laughter] But he never became an engineer. But I came back to Westinghouse.

Aspray:

Did you consider employment any place else? Did you have other offers?

Kilgore:

Yes. I had worked in the summers for the Northwestern Bell as a lineman, mostly as a ground man in a line gang. It was very good healthy work in the summertime. I even worked one winter, during Christmas vacation. I got a job with Lincoln Telephone Company. They had sleet storms, and I went out and helped with that stuff: opened lines in about ten below zero weather. Fortunately I wasn't climbing poles. I was on the ground. But the poor linemen up there, they nearly froze to death. Then I went home for Christmas one year, and the old line gang that I'd worked with the summer before were in my hometown. They gave me a job for supposedly about two weeks there. There was another big sleet storm up in the northern part of the state. So we loaded all our tools in a baggage car and went on up. We rented a Ford truck and took out across the bare country. There were snow drifts. We had to push the truck through and around some of the snow drifts. It was good, cold, hard work, but that sort of thing kept me healthy, helped me survive the long winter days at school when you didn't get proper exercise. The only exercise we got was when ROTC would march us around the campus once a week.

Aspray:

Did you have a job offer from Northwestern Bell when you graduated?

Kilgore:

Yes. In fact, the summer that I was in East Pittsburgh, I stopped in Chicago and went to Western Electric. They told me to look them up when I got through school. However, I was more interested in power than telephone work.

Reasons for Interest in Power Generation

Aspray:

Can you say why?

Kilgore:

Physical things that you could visualize, like big rotating machinery, appealed to me more than circuits and that sort of thing. I think it had to do with visualization of physical, three-dimensional things. You get a feeling of real power [Laughter] for one thing. That appealed to me a bit. I found that I had a facility for that and I thought maybe I could use it well. When I came back to Westinghouse, having worked for the relay department, they were interested in me. But at the end of that year at Westinghouse, I had gone around looking at other things to see what else there was. When I came back from the student course, I worked a month on a circuit-breaker test. Even the simple diagrams for circuit breaker bothered me. I just did not want that kind of circuit work. I thought I could do better in large machinery. So I got an assignment right off the student course.

Westinghouse Design School

Kilgore:

By the way, the Westinghouse student course in those days was an excellent education in itself. We had three months of what was called the engineering school, where we simply studied all the apparatus Westinghouse built. It answered a lot of practical questions. Then a few of us got picked for a full six months of what was called the design school. It had been started by the former chief engineer, old B.G. Lamme. He taught and trained these boys in a select group on the work of designers.

Lamme had died the year before I got there, and the various top engineers in the divisions were sort of vying to take his place, including running this design school. My current boss in the generator division was trying for that. He was the fellow who was left in charge of the questions that old B.G. Lamme used to give the boys as a test to select the top engineers. So my boss, Mr. Lafoon, gave me a set of the questions, and I struggled with them. They were really good questions that required some understanding of things. I suppose I did well on that, so I got selected to go to this design school.

There were two design schools: one electrical and one mechanical. I think there were about 13 chaps in each school, a small group like that. We had the top engineers from all the different divisions lecturing to us and then quizzing us on what they had taught us. It was excellent. Old Dr. Slepian showed up. He was a research scientist, but he was a practical man in the field of circuit breakers and current interruptions and circuits in general. I learned a great deal, again, from him.

There's another fellow I owe quite a debt to, a Dr. Calvert, who at that time was working on a generator design under Lafoon. All of us went to night school and continued after the Westinghouse courses. We went to Pitt, The University of Pitt[sburgh] cooperated with Westinghouse and taught courses at the old Westinghouse Club at night. We had good mathematics courses and fair engineering courses. Many of the boys went on and got master's degrees and I did, too. But Dr. Calvert went on and got a doctor's degree. He taught me a great deal, including graphical flux plotting, which is hardly practiced at all today. We could plot electrostatic and electromagnetic fields with this technique. I don't know who all developed it. But Calvert contributed and maybe I contributed a little to it. It was very useful. I applied it to many things later on. I got into electric fields and stuff. Still later somewhere along the line I got into aerodynamics and applied this field plotting to air flow. I did some work for Langley Field and Wright Field. Just a sideline, you might say.

Graphical Flux Plotting

Aspray:

Can you say more about that? How does it work? What's the principle behind it?

Kilgore:

The concept of graphical flux plotting was that you could break the field into two orthogonal sets of lines: one was flux lines, the direction of the flux; the other was magnetic potential lines. They cross at right angles. In a mathematical solution you can see the thing. Well, if you got down on a small enough scale, they could be made into squares. So that was the principle you applied. It was all a grand, cut-and-dry process, but you could test it by the squaring up of these curvilinear squares, I think Calvert called them. You could determine the flux, density, and total flux. It was very useful in electrical design. You could determine such things as the effect on flux of slots. I even applied it, with Calvert's guidance, to saturated nonlinear things where you were no longer reading squares. You multiply the permiance by the permeability, in that small a field. That was more contrived, but still you could get practical answers to it.

Large Generator Group

Kilgore:

Then I was assigned to the large generator division, which built turbine generators and waterwheel generators. This was under Mr. Lafoon.

Aspray:

How large a group was this?

Kilgore:

Eight or ten people. Several of them were foreign engineers. Some were Belgian, some Germans and Swiss. They did things their own way. I can't say I learned too much from them, but it was interesting to see what they were doing. The real break came when the General Electric boys had a new idea of how to analyze transients; short circuits and transient torques and various things. It required some new constants: reactances and time constants, which — became called a subtransient, transient reactances of a machine. In the early days, they had a single constant. They applied the leakage reactance to everything. But it didn't apply hardly at all what was later called transient reactance. So I recognized — and my boss recognized — that this was a real advance, and they decided that they needed somebody to develop formulas to calculate all these machine constants: reactances and time constants. I was assigned a job to work on this under an old Mr. Fecheimer who in the early days made a stab at an equation for this leakage reactance that I mentioned. I'm sorry to say he was really no help at all.

We had a Swedish fellow, Soderberg a mechanical engineer, who went on to head their steam division, their turbine division, and then became a professor at MIT and was head of the engineering school in later years. He was a guide, and although he was a mechanical engineer, I guess he was the one who gave me the most help on developing these constants. In Sweden he had picked up a concept of what we called fundamental parameters of a machine that were the density in the air gap, and the amperes per inch of periphery. I found the General Electric boys were wrestling with flux per pole and various other concepts as the fundamental thing. But the ampere wires from the product to the ampere wires times the density determine the power for per unit of volume of the machine, or the torque at least. Speed entered into the power, of course. It turned out that the ratio of the ampere wires per inch to the density was proportional to the reactance that the machine used.

So it was Soderberg who suggested this even though he was a mechanical engineer. He and I adopted it, and it proved a very, very effective way to analyze this. That was in 1931. I gave a paper on this work. I had spent closer to two years on this (a year and a half), and we made a lot of tests in the factory and nearly wrecked one of the machines. We learned to brace the windings a little better after we got through with those tests.

Early Involvement in AIEE

Aspray:

You said you gave a paper. Who was this to?

Kilgore:

To the AIEE. It was a summer convention down in Asheville, North Carolina. So I drove down there, and didn't stay at the expensive Grove Park Inn where they had the convention. I got a room somewhere and went over for the meetings.

Aspray:

Were you a member of AIEE?

Kilgore:

Yes. Right out of school. I came to a good many of the national meetings, but never was really active in the local society. Quite a bit later I was chairman of the old Electrical Machinery Committee, which later became the Generator Committee. Then there was a Power Systems Committee of which I was chairman. I was always active in that end of it. We wrote the Test Code for motors and things like that.


Design Manual and Turbine Generators

Kilgore:

Then the Depression was on, and they didn't have many machines to design. They assigned me to develop these constants for the machine. Then they decided they needed a new design manual. Here were these foreign chaps using their own methods. We had a few things from old B.G. Lamme, but nobody had written up a good design manual. So I was assigned the job to do this. I was to take the best of all these methods and use them. But I found that even the best of them didn't suit me too well. [Chuckling] I thought I could improve on them, and I did. Al least, I simplified them.

Aspray:

Was this a political job? Did you have to be sensitive to people's egos in bringing this together?

Kilgore:

A little bit. Poor old Mr. Fecheimer kind of lost out. He was later laid off during the Depression. He was never very happy with me doing this kind of thing. But Calvert and Lafoon were always very supportive. And another chap — M.W. Smith, who later became the chief engineer of Westinghouse, M.W. Smith and was eventually the president and chairman of Lima, Baldwin, Hamilton Company — he was at that time a section manager in the waterwheel generators and he liked the work I'd done on these reactances and the design manual. So he helped me later on in my career.

There was one opportunity that came along after I was through with this development work and the design manual. I was put back on turbine generator design. There was one job that came along. The Philadelphia Electric Company was still going to build the Richmond Station down here, and they wanted what would be the largest kilowatt-rated machine—165,000 kW. I don't know whether the boss figured we'd never get this job or what, but he got me working on this, and I made about nine different designs. I had the opportunity to discuss this with the head salesman, who was dealing directly with Philadelphia Electric, what they really wanted. It was a very good experience. And, as it happened, we got the job, I think rather by accident than intentionally. But anyhow, we got the job, and we had to build that machine.

The turbines up to that point had been 1800 RPM for any large rating. So this was a four-pole 1800 RPM machine. Right after that the turbine people developed higher-rated 3600 RPM machines. But they couldn't build them as big as this 165,000 kW. So the maximum kilowatt ratings dropped down to accommodate 3600 RPM machines. That machine remained the largest kilowatt-rated machine for 18 years. Then the Depression came along, and everything dropped back for a while. So by accident it remained the top rating for 18 years.

Work on Rectifiers

Kilgore:

Sometime after that this fellow, M.W. Smith, who was now our engineering manager of the whole division, motors, rectifiers, and everything else, came to me and said, "We would like you to switch over and work on rectifiers." Rectifiers are about as far from generators as you can imagine. They had formerly been in the switchgear division, but had been transferred to the generator division under M.W. Smith. So they wanted me to work on them. And I said, "Well, I'm sorry. If you fellows don't appreciate what I've done on the big generators, maybe it's time I look somewhere else." I didn't know where I would go, [Chuckling] but.... He said, "Oh, no. You misunderstand. We appreciate all you're doing. In fact because of that we think maybe you can help us with this problem we've got; what to do with these rectifiers. If we can't make a go of it, we'll have to go out of the business." He said, "Dr. Slepian recommended you." He was the inventor of a new form of mercury arc rectifier, the "ignitron," It had a mercury tool, and it had a little high-resistant contact, boron carbide or something. It would stick in the mercury and make a spark. Later the thyratron tubes had the same characteristic. You turn it on, but you had to wait until the current went to zero for it to go out. But that allowed you to use it as a controlled rectifier and even as an inverter.

I accepted that job, and one of my first assignments was to design in detail one of these new rectifiers of ignatron. So I built, engineered really, this first application of an ignatron rectifier. It went in a mine out near Pittsburgh. I had to go down in the mine with this thing several times. We made a little tricky control, a voltage regulator I built out of radio parts. It all worked very well, and it worked for years.

Aspray:

Did the company stay in that business area?

Kilgore:

Yes, all through the war. We built a great number for aluminum production. G.E., in derision called it the "ignatron." But they built them, too, because it was the logical answer to all these problems. So, as I say, this was a different line of work. But I only worked on the rectifiers for two years.

Aspray:

Did you find that work satisfying while you were doing it?

Work on Small Motors

Kilgore:

Yes. It was challenging, and I did away with my big slide rule, and I got the 5-inch slide rule I've used ever since. [Chuckling] But anyway, just as suddenly as they put me into rectifiers, they came and said, "Now, the chap in the large a.c. motor design is being transferred as the engineering manager out in Lima, Ohio, for the small motor business. We'd like you to take his job." Well, I was a little surprised at that, but pleased at the opportunity.

Aspray:

Why were you surprised?

Kilgore:

I had never designed a motor. I had done a little work for this group. Charlie Schutt was the former manager that moved on. He appreciated the work I had done on his reactances. He even got me to go once to a steel mill out in Chicago for some special problems they had. So I had some contact with the motors, but I hadn't, say, designed a motor. Furthermore, they already had two excellent chaps: one on synchronous motors, Mr. Lory, who later became engineering manager of that whole group; and P.C. Smith, who had worked as an induction motor designer for 30 years before they had made him any kind of a supervisor. But he later got the breaks working for me, and ended up as a division manager. [Laughter] So here were two excellent fellows. Either one of them could have been the manager, but they decided to stick me in over them.

Aspray:

What year was this?

Kilgore:

1938. So I had to be a bit tactful in dealing with these older fellows. Lory was about my age, but Smith was older. He's still living, by the way, at about 93. I see him a couple of times a year. Anyway, I left each of them in charge of their sub-sections. There were really two sections here: the synchronous machines and the induction machines. I let Smith manage induction machines, and Lory the synchronous. I applied myself mostly to developing better methods of calculation. I'd get them together, and we'd talk about technical problems. We had some night sessions, and got the young fellows in on it, too. I did design some big motors. When something super special came along, tricky things, I'd get into it.

Wind Tunnel Motors

Kilgore:

The war was on in Europe, and suddenly the United States Air Force wanted to build big wind tunnels. So I went with the salesman to Wright Field. They wanted a 40,000 h.p. motor to drive a big wind tunnel. They said, "General Electric said it can't be done. A big variable-speed motor that big isn't practical." They wanted to have six motors with separate fans on all of them to go in the wind tunnel. That didn't sit with these people very well. So I did a little scratching and figured, yes, we can build a 40,000 h.p. big motor. It's just bigger physically, but it was not very high speed. But it's entirely practical. One would use construction more like a waterwheel generator than any motor that had been built to date. But still, the fundamentals were the same. No real problems.

On the basis of that we got that job. There were some tricky aspects to this drive. It was a big wound-rotor motor. But they didn't like to waste the power as was often done with wound-rotor motors with just a resistor in the secondary or a liquid resistor where you could adjust the resistance. They wanted a more complicated drive (which was later called a Kramer drive) where you connected the secondary circuit of the big wound-rotor machine to a synchronous machine driven by a d.c. machine, which supplied another a.c./d.c. motor generator set. It was rather complicated. You get an inherent instability in these things.

But I found a simple way of visualizing this. It's not quite exact, but it tells you the main things you need to know. Simply looking at the speed torque for the motor with the ring shorted, you could see that when you're operating down below synchronous speed, you're on the underside of the speed torque. A momentary increase in speed gives you an increase in torque, but it means it's feeding energy into any oscillation that could occur, and there are a number of modes of oscillation. The shaft frequencies and the oscillating against the system. Picture it as a vector oscillating with respect to the system. As it moves apart, you get a restoring force. So, you've got an electrical spring on a mass at a very low, maybe a 1 Hz, natural frequency. Thereafter torsional frequencies depended on the shaft. They might be 10 to 30 Hz, somewhere in that region. You had to be concerned with that. It's quite a tricky solution. At that time, I never did get the exact solution. But I could see the simple picture of this speed torque. I realized that if I didn't get too close to synchronous speed, I was all right. We picked a speed — I forget now, maybe 94 percent of synchronous speed — and it worked very well.

Then another big wind tunnel job very shortly afterwards came about for what is now NASA, out at Moffett Field. It was the old Naval Air Force at that time. They had to have a big wind tunnel. It was even more complicated. They wanted six big fans, three wide and two high; it was a full-scale wind tunnel. It was enormous. The test section was 40 feet by 80 feet. Those 6 big fans are 120 feet across and 40 feet high. They wanted these motors to run in synchronism. You can parallel the secondaries, and parallel the primaries, and the motors will run in synchronism. But now you've very definitely got this instability problem. So I had to worry about that. I realized that I probably couldn't even get to this 94 percent speed with this one and might have trouble even way down in speed. Especially for the case where one of them oscillates against the rest of them, or maybe three would go against three. The various modes of oscillation, and each of them had this what I called negative damping inherent instability. So I made a very careful design of a induction motor and actually built in losses to shape the speed torque curve, so that it was stable all the way up. But somewhere I would get up on the steep part of this curve where the oscillation might occur. What I needed was some positive damping. I realized the fans themselves provided some damping, but I didn't know how to put numbers to it. So I went on my first trip to the West Coast to see these people down in Sunnyvale and got to talk to their top aerodynamics fellows. They gave me a simple rule for figuring the damping of the fan. It turns out it's twice as much as the slope of this torque curve at that point. That was enough to allow me to work up to 88 percent of synchronous speed, which made this a practical solution.

But General Electric had told them that wasn't possible. It would never be stable. This wasn't going to work. They had another more expensive scheme to solve the problem. But there was an interesting character in charge of Moffett Field then, Smitty de France. He had been a World War I ace. I remember at lunch he told the story of how they hooked bombs under the wings, and they'd pull a cord to let the bomb drop. A cord attached to the priming pin would prime it as it left the plane. Coming back from one of those raids, he heard something go bump-bump-bump as he landed. [Laughter] He said, "Fortunately most of them were duds." But he was a real character, and he believed what I was telling him. He told me that the GE people came back about a month before it was going to start and said, "This is just not going to work. Better be prepared for this." He said, "Well, we've got this far. Let's wait and see." Then he told me later that they came back a month after it was operating, and said, "This can't be. There's got to be some trick to this thing." Well, in a way there was a little trick in it. The main trick was shaping the . . .

But there was another weak negative damping effect in there that occurred at very light loads. Maybe the friction of the bearings and stuff would have taken care of it, but I hadn't anticipated this when it went to test. They called me down, and said, "We've got two of these big motors running now side by side and perfectly stable. Come down and see it." I went down. I looked at the meters, they were just fluttering a little bit. But as I stood and watched 15 minutes or more, it kept growing. So it definitely was unstable, and I didn't dare take the chance that the friction would be enough to provide the necessary damping. So I developed a trick circuit. Actually, it was a tuned Circuit the current transformer circuit, a capacitor and reactor. Looking at these speed torque curves, it turns out that it's not just the slope of the curve, but the line drawn between two points, let's say operating slip plus or minus the oscillating slip. I put this capacitor and resistor in, tuned at about 61 Hz or 61-1/2, but and a bump in the speed torque curve that gave me a positive slope at this point instead of a negative slope. That was the only trick in the thing. But I had to have a whole mess of these current transformer circuits go through six motors, and I had to worry about all the various combinations of oscillation. So down under the motors were this bunch of little trick circuits, small capacitor can and a small choke. But I guess that was the trick that made sure they would work. De France wouldn't let them go down there and look at them. “It was dangerous.” So we've always had a rivalry there that is still going on today.

Out at Moffett Field, many years later, they wanted to upgrade the thing. First they wanted a big new wind tunnel. They called me out there, and we talked about what it would take. I said to the head man "You know, I hear the government's getting tight on the money here. If you don't get some money for the new tunnel, why don't we look at what we could do to upgrade the old one?" About a month later he called me up and said, "We didn't get our money. How about coming out and seeing what we can do?" So I helped them engineer a rebuilt tunnel. But we were going to use one of these sets I told you about, a big synchronous variable speed motor I would rebuild into an induction frequency changer. We would use that to bring these new big motors up to speed and then synchronize it. By then they had variable pitch propellers to control the flow, rather than run the motor at variable speed. I helped them on that. Actually, that occurred right after I was retired from Westinghouse but staying on as a consultant. I helped Westinghouse design the motors and address some of the special problems they had. Moffett Field engaged me occasionally as a consultant.

Just recently, I have gotten this mechanical engineering firm, EME Co., in on some mechanical problems for them, and they did a good job. They liked their work so they called on this small company and me to help them upgrade the big General Electric drive out there, called a unitary tunnel, with four 45,000 h.p. motors on it. They were going to give us this job, but they found they couldn't do it without putting it out for bids. So they put it out. GE and Westinghouse and some others quoted on the study to upgrade the machines, but we got the job. So I'm involved in that right now. I was out in California three weeks ago. The problem was that we couldn't get any drawings from the General Electric Company. So we had to go out and measure the slots and everything ourselves. We made use of any test data they had. There were no factory tests available. It was quite a challenge. But fortunately the machines were very conservatively designed, and we can upgrade them. Then we could make some relatively small improvements in ventilation and get a little more copper in the slots. So we can upgrade these motors very substantially. I'm not sure where we'll end up exactly.

Not only have we got to check the motors, but we've got to check the transformer and everything that goes with it. To limit the pole currents they had gone to high reactance transformers. The system has quite a bit of impedance. They've been operating 20 percent overload, right up close to pullout. So I had to redesign the system. We had to do something to the transformers to get that down. It's a big job. Anyway, I've stayed interested in that sort of thing even today. At 88 years of age [Laughter] I'm still working at it. Only part time, of course.

Aspray:

Can I ask a question or two about that story? How much did the people who worked at the different places you built wind tunnels know about the engineering parameters? How much can it be a partnership in deciding on design?

Kilgore:

Unfortunately, not much. They are more operating engineers and maybe systems engineers, at best. Not design engineers. Just understanding the limitations of motors is almost a lost art. So they don't. You have to explain everything, and then they just have to sort of accept your word for it. A lot depends on what they believe. General Electric has a good man, Mel Horton, who I've run into several times. But he's not the detail designer that I am. So he has to get his information from people back at headquarters. And in the process it loses some of the conviction. So they seemed to trust what I was telling them more.

Aspray:

What did you have to know about operations there in order to do your design work?

Kilgore:

I had to talk to them and find out just what they need. In fact on this last trip, we finally got an audience with some of their top engineers to find out what they really wanted, what they could do, and how they operated. That was quite interesting.

Pulse-Power Set for UC Berkeley

Aspray:

Let's go back to Westinghouse

Kilgore:

All right. I was in charge of the motor design. And then suddenly the rectifier manager quit. He went out to work for the service people. They wanted me to go back and work on rectifiers. I said, "No. I'm already managing a bigger section than that." So, they said, "Well, you can run both the rectifiers and motors sections." So I ran two sections. That gave me an opportunity to do a few things: One was the rather enormous pulse-power set for the betatron at the University of California at Berkeley—50,000 kW generators and flywheels and rectifiers to operate as rectifiers and inverters. That's an interesting story, too. Do you remember Dr. Lawrence?

Aspray:

Oh, yes.

Kilgore:

He was in charge of all this. But he had said he wasn't going to mess with this engineering problem. His fellows came back East, and talked to us. We had this idea to use this ignatron rectifier and a flywheel generator and we got the bid. Now, I had a hunch that the General Electric people weren't going to do it as simply as we were, and that their price would be high. But for once, I couldn't convince our sales people to up the price. I was usually wanting them to lower the price. So it turned out that our price was close to half of what General Electric could do. It was a ridiculous difference. That came to Dr. Lawrence's attention. He said, "Look, they just can't know what they're doing if they quote such a price as that." So I got called out there.

It was quite an interesting session. His people were all sitting around, and Dr. Lawrence came in, and he had a favorite chair in this conference room. He plops down, big lanky fellow, and throws his leg over the arm of the chair. He said, "I've just got a couple of questions." He said, "Your friends from Schenectady say there are a couple of problems here you'd better look at. One is the speed of these flywheel things. At steel mills, they only go at such-and-such a speed, and here you're going to go twice that speed. Something is wrong with that." And I said, "Well, we've built synchronous condensers and waterwheel generators, a few of them are high-speed machines. They will certainly hold up to what you're proposing here." I said, "It's the peripheral speed that counts in these machines. He said, Yeah, that's right. I once designed some compressors, and the peripheal speed was the limiting factor in the mechanical design."

They had some questions about the rectifiers too. The old ignatrons were wonderful and were simple rectifiers, but, every once in a while they would misfire. There just didn't seem to be any way you could eliminate it completely. But this big magnet they were feeding had so much inductance that if it misfired... the current could not jump up and it could not recover. I insisted that it was going to work. He got up and said, "Looks like you've got yourself a job." So we built those, and they've worked very well ever since.

We went on and built similar things for Brookhaven Laboratories. Allis-Chalmers got the other big one out at Chicago — that atomic place out there.

Aspray:

Fermi Lab?

Kilgore:

Yes. They had much bigger machines to do the same job. But anyway, they did work. That was the interesting thing in those generators.

Rivalry with General Electric

Aspray:

I have a question about relations with General Electric.

Kilgore:

This is a rivalry thing. [Laughter]

Aspray:

I understand.

Kilgore:

I don't know whether you've talked to Doc Harder. He and I drove to California together after we were retired one time. All the way out we talked about things like this. It turned out that for both of us, one of our chief satisfactions was outdoing General Electric. [Laughter] You could say it was a rivalry, if you like.

Aspray:

When these GE engineers questioned these designs and bids that you've described in the last few minutes, do you think that they were doing this honestly?

Kilgore:

Yes, I do. In their understanding of it, it wasn't going over. There are some pretty good reasons for suspecting it might not work. You had to do it exactly right, or it wasn't going to work.

Aspray:

How much would you know about their proposal?

Kilgore:

You don't know anything ahead of time, and seldom find out much afterwards. Sometimes a customer will tell you a few words what they had quoted, and so on. But otherwise they keep everything quiet. Most outfits are very strict about not divulging one supplier's information to the other.

Aspray:

But certainly when you had the design on this wind tunnel and they were questioning it, they must have known enough about your design to raise the appropriate questions, right?

Kilgore:

They knew, in general, what we were proposing, yes. The six speed motors with the primaries and secondaries all parallel — that was the thing they thought wouldn't work. They were going to go to something fancier. I think a frequency-changer set.

Switchgear vs. Generator Engineer Cultures

Kilgore:

We should get back to Westinghouse or really we'll never get through. One thing that happened, I got sent to this Harvard Advanced Management School. Two of us were the first people Westinghouse sent to that, and that was back in 1950. I was expecting when I came back and Lafoon retired, that I would be engineering manager. But that didn't happen quite that way. Another good friend of mine, Art Harrison, became the engineering manager. They decided to stick me somewhere, so I was called the Director of Engineering for the East Pittsburgh Group of Divisions. Reporting to the vice president, Mr. McCulley, who knew nothing about engineering, which to him was a necessary evil.

Aspray:

I see. [Laughter]

Kilgore:

He didn't bother me very much, and I didn't bother him very much. I really didn't know exactly what was expected of me. But I went around, talking to the various engineering groups and meddling in their affairs. One thing I recognized was that generator people count on their calculations for everything. They would test the machine before they shipped it but they never experimented with anything. Meanwhile, circuit-breaker switchgear people never did any figuring; they didn't even have a slide rule. They counted on building the stuff and testing it; cut and try. So here's two radically different approaches within the company. I thought, maybe I can contribute by getting the generator people to do more experimenting, and the switchgear people to do more calculating. So I even taught classes to the switchgear people: how to figure temperatures in their apparatus, and how to figure short circuits, forces, and stuff.

Then I prodded the generator people to make a nice laboratory. Previously, they only had a very small laboratory. They had a very good development man, a Frenchman named Baudry. With his help they built the first inner-cooled generators at Westinghouse. We found out Allis-Chalmers was working in parallel on this so-called inner-cooled type of generator. Instead of using the term "inner-cooling," GE called it "direct cooling," and they were behind us on that considerably.

But Allis-Chalmers had this man, Sterling Beckwith, that was working on it. He and I had once worked together. He's a good friend of mine. We were both very good friends of Dr. Calvert, who is now a professor. But both of us were talking to Calvert about this, and he didn't dare tell either of us what the other guy was saying. He was very conscientious, so it wasn't until years later that he told us that. Anyway, I didn't invent the thing. Baudry invented the best detail of our inner-cooling, with of stainless steel vent tubes in between the coils. But I pushed the whole thing, and I got to present the thing to the Management Committee.

Teaching Management to Engineers

Kilgore:

Shortly after that was when they made me Director of Engineering for the Group of Divisions. Then I had to learn more about circuit breakers. I applied some of my graphical plotting to the electrostatic fields to solve some of the breakdown problems in the SF-6 circuit breakers they were trying to build. I had good relations with most of these engineering managers, all of the really technical people. I had a meeting once with the two engineering managers of the two big divisions. One was the Switchgear Division, and one was the Generator Division. I was talking to them about their problems. It just happened both of them said, "Our worst problems are not technical problems, they're people problems. What can we do about it?" I said, "Harrison and I have both been to this Harvard school. Johnson has been to the Pitt School of Advanced Management. The three of us ought to get up a course here and try to educate our boys on how to get along." They said, "Well, that's a good idea - You do it." So I organized a course that they later called "Human Relations for Engineers." That's not a good title because human relations now tends to mean race relations or something else today.

First I got all thirty or so of the engineering section managers together and said, "Now look, we're going to try to have a class for some of your people, but we'd like you to know about it. In fact, we would like to you have some sort of seminar on this subject." So, in effect, I tried out the course on these engineering managers. I got those that were most interested in it to go on and teach the rest of the boys. All together, we got at least 80 percent of the engineers in East Pittsburgh to go to a night course on their own time. It was about eight sessions. We later wrote it up like a brief paper, something that another chap and I wrote. I remember saying to Art Harrison, "I don't know whether they're really doing these fellows any good or not." He said to take it from him, they really were. Some of his section managers were "prima donnas," he said. "They have all kinds of trouble. They shout at the sales department and everybody else. Now they're all working together and cooperating."

Aspray:

What sorts of things did you teach in this course?"

Kilgore:

I hate to say it, but it was a bit like a Dale Carnegie course, and I'm sure you know what that is.

Aspray:

Yes.

Kilgore:

Except I emphasized sincerity. You had to feel right towards somebody to act right. Otherwise we talked about the same kinds of things. We suggested getting interested in the other people, even their personal lives if you could and taught them how to handle certain situations, people getting aggressive and that sort of thing.

Aspray:

What did you learn in your Harvard Management course. Was it helpful?

Kilgore:

Perhaps it was my fault. I was an engineer. There were only a few engineers in the course. The rest were all sales managers, operating managers, a president of a small railroad, etc. Another guy, a roommate of mine, later became the president of a big oil company down South. It eventually became the Pennzoil Company. He was a good common-sense guy, and I learned something from him. He was an engineer, but there wasn't much engineering to do in the oil fields. They sent him out to buy up claims. So he'd have to go and sit on a fence rail and talk the old farmer into letting him prospect on his land. I did learn from the people, but not too much from the courses. It was the old case study method. You could learn something from them; no question about it.

I did get one opportunity. For some reason they sent me over to the special course they had on economics. We had Shockerly, the Harvard economics guy. It was quite interesting. I remember labor relations guys in this big class. Some of them later became rather famous arbitrators. But all of it was educational; in general, it's broadening. So I'm sure it helped me later on. I never became the division manager or a vice president or anything like that. But I had this sort of top technical job. More like a chief engineer of a small company, that type of job.

Aspray:

What happened next?

Kilgore:

I worked for about three different vice presidents, as they dropped off, as head of East Pittsburgh. The last one was Jim Wallace, a younger man. His father was a preacher, and I knew his dad. Jim was a smart boy, but a poor student. When he became division manager I was on his staff and he got a bunch of us together on his staff and said, "We're hiring students and we're always demanding the top student in the class." He said, "I think that's wrong. I was near the bottom of my class." [Laughter] Then he asked, "How many of you guys were near the top of your class?" I think nearly all of us, and there were about half a dozen of us. I was one of them. "Well," he said, "I was in the bottom third of my class." So he thought he was right on that.

Consulting & Mojave River Plant Project

Kilgore:

Then one of the top vice presidents decided you couldn't have a job like mine anymore. Here I am about two years away from retirement. So they just do away with the job, and make me a consulting engineer. They thought of putting me in another group where they had a couple of consulting engineers, but I said to Jim Wallace, "I would rather work with you and stay closer to the design people." So he arranged that I did.

Actually, I no longer reported to him. I reported to another ex-vice president that they had put in charge of systems engineering. He was from the nuclear division. But I still was close to the design people. That was broadening, too. I got in on some special problems there. One of them that I resolved for them was a problem that came up of when you use series capacitors in the big transmission lines. Today they're only using them out West. Between big power systems, there was no problem. But isolated plants were more problematic. For instance, a rather isolated plant, the Mojave Plant on the Colorado River, has series capacitors on the lines going both ways. When they started up some new unit, it just shook foundations and everything, twisted the shaft, and melted the coupling where the hot metal came out and short-circuited the rings. That's what shut them down. They couldn't believe it. They didn't know what had happened. But they had two units and put the next one in service, and the same thing happened. Then they were desperate.

Now, it just so happened that I had written a paper with another chap, in which we had part of the answer to what was wrong. We had worried about self-excited oscillations of current, due to what I called "induction generator action." If you got a low enough resistance, you could get self-excited oscillations. But I hadn't yet found it. But because we had written the paper, the Southern Cal. Edison fellow had me and the other chap, who'd co-authored the paper with me, out to talk about the problem. I told the customers people I had this theory. They had a smart relay engineer there who made one good observation. And he said, "Well, that doesn't quite fit the facts. Yours is worse with maximum capacitor. But we had a less capacitor condition." He also noted that it seemed to be related to this torsional frequency of the set. And I said, "Well, maybe there's something in that." So I said, "Give me a chance to study it."

I went home. Within a week I had the answer. It involved what later became called "torsional interaction," where when you can get these kinds of oscillations that can be self-excited by feedback between the electrical instability and the mechanical system. I developed, based on the concepts I had in the instability of the wind tunnel motors, the same concept I could see applied here — a quite simple numerical solution to the problem. Or perhaps I should say it was a very close approximation to the problem. Our people jumped in on a computer, and six months later they had a more detailed answer. But of course the General Electric boys, they had a solution, too. Here was Arizona Public Service with a new power station that was going to get into trouble, and they recognized it. And GE, because it was GE motors and systems that had had the other trouble, was afraid to offer too much for fear that the other people would complain they should have recognized this all along. In other words, General Electric because their machines had had this other trouble, was slow to come up with an exact solution to this problem in Arizona. So the Arizona people turned to us.

I offered a scheme that had could damp out the oscillations, but it was a pretty darned complicated system. There are four big generators, and my system would have cost $1 million per machine. I got our people to quote on it. But at the last minute the General Electric came up with a much more expensive scheme. It was $6 million per machine. Actually, Salt River District people operated the station, but they said the machines were General Electric. General Electric would not be responsible if they took this cheaper Westinghouse solution. So they had to buy the $6-million-per-machine solution. It has worked pretty well ever since. We have applied the general concept that I had on the damper circuit to a couple of later jobs: San Juan and another one down there in the Tucson area. We also developed a relay to trip the machines off if they got into this torsion oscillation business. That was a very challenging problem. But there were very few of them applied except out West.

Retirement and IEEE

Kilgore:

I retired from Westinghouse at age 65, as a consulting engineer, and that made it easy for me to stay on as a consultant. They even gave me an office, the same office there in East Pittsburgh, for eight more years. Then they moved the big generator division down to Orlando, Florida while I was still working with the switchgear people. In the switchgear section, we're moving a lot of their stuff out. So after eight years I gave up an office in East Pittsburgh and just worked out of my home. By that time I was doing some consulting for other people as well as Westinghouse. I work mainly with a couple of small companies and occasionally on my own. I am working half time and getting paid for a quarter of the time. People picking my brains on some of these things that don't come through in a consulting contract. It has kept me going. I enjoy it. I think I mentioned in IEEE. I was the head of two different main committees, and I got the Lamme Medal Award.

Aspray:

What's your attitude about IEEE? What was its role in your career? What value did you think it had?

Kilgore:

It was very valuable to me to go to these technical sessions on motors and generators especially. Being chairman of a couple of committees and working on standards was all very helpful. I got to meet some of the top engineers, and I got very well acquainted with Concordia who was one of the top General Electric guys. Way back before him, I met old Phil Alger. Have you heard that name?

Aspray:

No.

Kilgore:

He was one of the early guys. In fact, he was at that meeting in Asheville when I presented that first paper. But he was the only guy that came to me and said what an excellent paper it was. "You ought to put in for an award of some kind." I never did. Then I've had another General Electric guy Dr. Bulky who backed me up on some things. He became a dean of engineering at Lehigh University. It seemed like a couple of times I had more support in AIEE from General Electric engineers than I had from Westinghouse.

Proudest Accomplishments

Aspray:

If you look back on your career, and you want to identify just a small number of things that you're most of proud of, what would you identify?

Kilgore:

I suspect I would include some of these things I've just mentioned, the special jobs that were extra challenging — the wind tunnel jobs and the Bevatron. And solving this subsynchronous resonance problem of the series capacitors was an accomplishment. And from way back, I would include writing a design manual, developing the methods. I have always been strictly an engineer. They never really made a manager of me. [Chuckling]

Aspray:

Are you glad or sad about that?

Kilgore:

Oh, I'm happy enough. I'm very content with my career.

Personal Style of Engineering: Analytical

Aspray:

I found it very interesting when you mentioned this fact that one division is using mostly empirical methods, and another one's using mathematical ones. What would you characterize as your own personal working method?

Kilgore:

It's definitely more on the analytical side, but not high-powered mathematics. I had a philosophy that if you understood the physics of a problem, and if you could visualize what was going on in your mind, then you could always find some very simple mathematics to give you at least a good approximation. I didn't get too involved in complicated mathematics.

Aspray:

Did you model things using partial differential equations?

Kilgore:

Yes, as a basis, but I often reduced that to something simple. I learned to think of these transients in terms of simple time constants and oscillating frequencies calculated, and the energy back, of them, that sort of thing. I relied upon the physics of the problem and as simple mathematics as you could use. But I felt that the ability to visualize things was the most useful trait I developed. It didn't come easy, either. When you started in some of these fields, you were groping your way around. You had to work at it to be able to get the knowledge.

Aspray:

What role did calculating tools and methods play, computing tools, slide rules, desk calculators, and so on?

Kilgore:

I'm still using a slide rule today. I have a calculator, but I never really learned to use a big computer. It would help me now as a word processor if nothing else. My daughters have tried to teach me simple computer stuff, but I never learned to type so it's difficult for me.

Aspray:

Did you ever have Harder's group do calculations for you?

Kilgore:

No. Not in our design field. Some of the boys learned to use the computer all right, and I'm sure they had contact with Harder's people, but I guess you might say we chose to do our own figuring. We appreciated what he had done, and the switchgear people appreciated what he had done because in the early days they only had an old analog computer. It was just a bunch of little coils and capacitor cans representing the machines and transformers and everything else. His boys put that all on the computer, and of course we finally got our answers. They did an excellent job, but more in that field than in the generator field.

Engineering as Creative Process

Aspray:

Can you give me any better insight into what the design process was about? How much of it was learned on the job? How much of it was applying your physical principles?

Kilgore:

There's one aspect of it which might be worth mentioning: The design of even big generators is a creative process in the sense that each particular design is original. There may have been other similar designs. In fact, usually you would go back and look at the tests on all of the other designs. I'm afraid some designers try to do things by just simple ratioing from one to another. That's certainly a good starting point, but I always liked to go further and calculate more details. The design process was one of assuming some proportions and calculating performance. At this stage we had no system where you simply plugged in the numbers and came out with a design. We had to cut and try. We had to picture it by some of this ratioing or other process, pick out some proportions, and then go back and calculate in detail what the results would be. That was the process. It was time-consuming. Later on one of our guys spent three years at the computer and came up with an induction motor computer program that had built into it a lot of fixed parameters. That would come up fairly straightforwardly. You'd put in the requirements, and it would print out a design. But that was later.

Now, his people worked independently. On the other hand, they definitely were in contact with Dr. Harder and his people and got a lot of help from him.

Aspray:

To what degree could you control the career moves you made?

Kilgore:

I only remember one incident. Before I became a section manager there, I had talked to our then engineering manager, who was a practical engineer that had come up through the line. I don't know what the occasion was. Maybe he had just given me a raise or something. He called me into his office. I remember saying to him, "Someday I would like to be considered some kind of manager, a section manager or something, somewhere." I told him a story about my summer job working in this tree nursery when I was 14 years old. I was put in charge of a gang of kids, including three of the boss's sons. This was a management job if there ever was one. [Laughter] The old guy seemed to appreciate that, and it wasn't too much after that that this other opportunity came up. I think he, and perhaps M.W. Smith, who was by now the engineering vice president, chose me as the man to be the head of that motor section.

Aspray:

Do you think that senior managers in the company would look out for promising young people and move them through?

Kilgore:

Very much so. Some of them didn't always show good judgment in that. [Chuckling] One fellow who got to be an executive vice president never was a friend of mine for sure. It seemed to me he made some awfully poor judgments. He tried to go way down the line. One vice president was a friend of mine, and you may have heard of him. He was quite an IEEE guy — he headed the IEEE at one time. His name was A.C. Montieth. Monty came up through this same group that Ed Harder did. In fact, I was a section manager before he was any kind of a manager. But he got a break, and M.W. Smith picked him out to be his assistant, to the vice president of engineering. He moved on up from there. But he was a guy that knew everybody all the way down the line and was everybody's friend really. He was tremendous fellow. This other vice president I mentioned was quite the opposite. He had a few pet friends, but other than that he wasn't friendly to anybody. Anyway, Westinghouse did have a policy of picking out younger men and trying to train them and move them around some. I think that gave me a break, even though I didn't like being switched into rectifiers and then to motors, and back into generators at the time. But I think it helped my development.

Design Solutions of Westinghouse & GE

Aspray:

In a couple of the stories you told, you contrasted the design solution of General Electric with the design solution of Westinghouse. In several of these cases, the Westinghouse one was much more elaborate, but also more expensive.

Kilgore:

No. I wouldn't say that. For example, in a couple of those cases our solution was cheaper. I mentioned the one job that was supposedly half the price.

Aspray:

I meant the other way around. Excuse me. General Electric one was more expensive. Is that a generalization you can expand upon? Is that characteristic?

Kilgore:

I wouldn't say it's a company characteristic. If a routine designer of electrical machines gets too fixed in his ideas or has a routine way of figuring them, a routine way of building the machines, he gets too frozen. Whereas I was looking for new ways all the time, and I think I observed that the General Electric had these good routine designers, but very few creative people. They had a few guys like Concordia. He would stir them up. He wasn't always right, but he stirred them up anyhow. General Electric seemed to be dominated more by their sales and commercial people. In fact, one of their good people R. H. Park left on that account, R.H. Park. Have you ever heard of him?

Aspray:

No, I don't know that name.

Kilgore:

He was a brilliant young man, a few years older than me, in General Electric. He came up with these new concepts of reactances and time constants for machines. Then he had some circuits theory about circuit breakers. Something was wrong with the way they were being applied, and these commercial people didn't like it and wouldn't let him publish a paper. So he quit. I never found the Westinghouse commercial people that way. For the most part, they trusted the engineers and were glad to take advantage of any new ideas we had.

Aspray:

When Westinghouse bid on a project, how would they assign staffing? Would there be a senior marketing representative and a senior engineering representative?

Kilgore:

I usually ended up some way further down the line. I got assigned to that one big generator way back, and the salesman I dealt with mostly was a district salesman who worked directly with the customer. As I say, he got that order when he wasn't supposed to. [Chuckling] That's another story.

Aspray:

For example, did the company have some set profit lines they wanted from each of these special projects that you would bid on?

Kilgore:

Oh, yes. They had. That was always a difficult thing to judge. You had to try to guess where your competition was, and the only input I could have was to point out to them, like I mentioned on some of those jobs, that GE would probably use such and such a thing, and we could do it a cheaper way.

Fellow and Rival Engineers

Aspray:

Are there some people that have had very distinguished careers in power engineering or at Westinghouse that you want to tell me about.

Kilgore:

There were a lot of good people involved there. Gene Whitney was a very excellent designer. He headed the waterwheel group there. He worked on big motors and other things. He made real contributions. The fellow I mentioned that developed that computer program, Gernie Godwin moved with the motor division out to Round Rock, Texas, and retired from there. People I would know are all retired, of course. [Chuckling] I mentioned Lory and P.C. Smith. In a different field there was Bob Lawrence. There were a couple of good boys there. There's Chuck Wagner, whose father had been a consulting engineer. C.F. Wagner was his father. C.L. is the now retired — one that worked with Lawrence there. They had some more good boys in that field. Then in the circuit breaker field there was Dr. Leeds. T.E. Browne was another one of these people. Westinghouse pioneered some of that circuit breaker stuff. They built the first SF6 circuit breakers. Dr. Slepian had the Deion circuit breaker. Everybody is using this SF6 stuff now. Browne was quite active in that.

Aspray:

If you were to choose two or three people to give another part of the Westinghouse story or part of the story from General Electric's point of view, who would you suggest?

Kilgore:

At GE one of the most active and aggressive chaps was Concordia. Have you got his story?

Aspray:

One of my colleagues will be interviewing him.

Kilgore:

Well, watch out. [Chuckling] He's a wild guy. But I think you'd get an interesting story out of him. I can remember Concordia after these lawsuits on the collusion business. I'd meet him in a hotel at the convention in New York. He was a character. He has been sort of a rival of mine. He'd usually have a rather complicated mathematical solution, and I'd have oversimplified solutions. That's on the General Electric side. R.H. Park may provide some valuable insight also. He definitely was a contributor.

Aspray:

Do you know where he is now?

Kilgore:

He's older than I am. He retired and was living out on Cape Cod. I had an idea of proving stability in power systems by dynamic braking if a fault occurred. I was going to get a patent on it, and Ed Harder ran into Park somewhere and mentioned it. Park already had that patent. [Chuckling] So he and I got together several times after that to try to get Westinghouse interested in using his patent. They didn't want to pay him very much. Power companies are awfully scotch on anything like that. But I remember one power company executive well, a friend of a fellow I know. He took this Westinghouse course with me at one time. He even told old Park. He said, "It's criminal to expect the power company to pay for something like this. You ought to give it to them." Talk about what is logical, I suppose. [Laughter] That's how this guy quoted him.

You talk about Westinghouse people in the design area. Doc Leeds and T.E. Browne both made contributions. I think Leeds is probably on some IEEE committees. Browne wrote papers on arc interruption. They have a club they call the Current Zero Club. In other words, it was this theory that the arc goes out at current zero, and what happens in that moment of time in the arc. Now Browne was active in that. He's still living around Pittsburgh and retired.

Aspray:

That's a good list.

Kilgore:

They're the ones that contributed most, I think.

Aspray:

Are there other things that you can tell me about Westinghouse that will help me to understand either the way the company operates or its place in the industry?

Kilgore:

Its place in the industry has gone to hell. [Chuckling] In fact General Electric is also just about out of most of these businesses. They've just gone out of these businesses. Foreigners seem to take them over and make out. But why couldn’t they have stayed in the business?

Aspray:

Westinghouse certainly is a very different company today than it was then.

Kilgore:

Very sad.

Aspray:

Why don't we stop it at this point?

Kilgore:

Okay.

Aspray:

Thank you.