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Charles Brush (1849-1929)

Charles Brush was an inventor and engineer born in March 1849. After developing an early interest in science, Brush attended the University of Michigan to study mining engineering, graduating in 1869. He then finished his PhD at Western Reserve in Cleveland in 1880. Prior to finishing his PhD, Brush secured backing for his design of the ‘dynamo’ in 1876, which was an electrical generator used to power arc lights. He was granted a patent for the dynamo in 1877. In 1878, after testing, Brush’s design was considered superior to others and by 1881 his arc light systems were installed across America in states such as New York, Boston, and Cleveland.

After establishing his own electrical company in 1880, the Brush Electric Company, Brush built a mansion in Cleveland in 1884 to highlight his inventions. It was here that Brush developed the world’s first automatically operated wind turbine in 1888. Though not the first turbine to produce electricity, with this credited to James Blyth in Scotland in 1887, Brush’s turbine could stop manually to protect it from wind damage, unlike the turbine Blyth constructed. The turbine had a power rating of 12 kW and charged a set of batteries. The batteries were used as a power source for 350 incandescent lamps, two arc lamps and three motors within his home. The turbine consistently powered Brush’s home until he abandoned the project in 1908 for the convenience of using centrally produced electricity. Brush continued working in some capacity up until his death in 1929 when he unfortunately caught bronchitis.


Power from the Wind – Richard Hills, 1996

Wind Power – Peter Musgrove, 2010

University of Michigan: Electrical and Computer Engineering – Charles F Brush