When we started our AC Power History pages a few years ago there was one figure who seems to be the “inventor” of AC power but little information was available about him.
Hippolyte Pixii was the first of the founding fathers of the electrical age (this includes Faraday, Henry, Volta, Davenport and Ampere) to focus on alternating current. Sure, others also “discovered it” but they viewed it as an annoyance because their focus was on direct current. Pixii built a commutator and was able to produce DC current.
For the next 40 years this pioneer’s work was largely out of focus. It was in the 1870s that interest in AC power came alive again in Europe. The Ganz Company in Budapest began to use AC power and develop crude systems of delivery. This work caught the attention of Elihu Thomson in the US and Walter Baily in London.
By 1882 there were scattered groups of talented engineers working on AC power including Ferranti, Lord Kelvin and others. Contrary to popular myth, Nikola Tesla had nothing to do with AC power development this early, his main contributions came in later in the 1880s while there was already many others racing forward to develop systems.
In the last couple years we’ve seen more pages, videos and information come out of the dusty archives on Pixii which is great. Below we’ve posted some of our pictures of Pixii’s machine. We urge you to check out the electrical history section of the Smithsonian Museum of American History which has lots of cool old replicas and artifacts from 1800s. You can see a replica of Pixii’s machine there. I have also seen some replicas of Pixii’s work at the Deutches Museum in Munich.
More on Pixii:
ETC Page on AC Power History