W. Rice, Jr The
accomplishments and life of Edwin Wilbur Rice, Jr. 1862-1935
Edwin W. Rice and Thomas Alva Edison
Edwin Wilbur Rice
helped build General Electric into an international power through
his technical and business expertise. His life was filled with direct
experience working with North America's greatest electrical engineers.
Currently there is a video documentary being made on his life. Click
here to learn more about the video.
Power Pioneer as well as an AC Power Pioneer
-Successful manager and President of General Electric
-One of the founders of RCA (Radio Corporation of America)
-One of the founders of the General Electric
Chester W. Rice went on to make important
Edwin W. Rice was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin,
the son of Edwin Wilbur and Margaret Eliza (Williams) Rice. His father
was a missionary. In 1862 his family moved to Philadelphia where,
as a school boy in 1876, he came into contact with Professor Elihu
Thomson, then a teacher in Boys' Central High School. His natural
fondness for mechanics and later for electricity was quickly developed
by this association and when, in 1880, the professor gave up teaching
to go into electrical manufacturing as scientist and inventor, young
Rice gladly accepted an opportunity to become his assistant.
He went to New Britain, Connecticut and for
three years was with Thomson in the American Electric Company there
and in Philadelphia, engaged in the manufacture of arc lamps and dynamos.
Video about carbon arc lamps: how they
work and history
In 1883 he went with Thomson to Lynn,
Massachusetts, upon the organization of the Thomson-Houston Company,
when a majority interest of the American Electric Company was purchased
by the former concern. At the age of twenty-two he was made plant
superintendent and had this full responsibility until the consolidation
of Thomson-Houston and Edison General Electric in 1892 to form the
present General Electric Company.
E.W. Rice, Jr. photo with some
of GE's great engineers, on a visit from the great Lord
Kelvin to Schenectady.
In the new company Mr. Rice was first made
technical director, and in 1896 vice president in charge of manufacturing
and engineering. He eventually became senior vice president and in
1913 he succeeded Mr. Coffin as president of the Company. In 1922,
after nine years of service in that office, he was succeeded by Gerard
Swope and was made honorary chairman of the Board.
He contributed much through organization
methods, improved factory routine, technical development
and engineering and scientific inventions to General Electric,
having more than a hundred patents to his credit. Their range
is so wide as to embrace practically the entire field of electrical
operations because in his position he consulted with the entire
engineering staff and assisted in every form of engineering
development which was going forward over a long period. The
salient inventive achievements of his career included: systems
of distribution, particularly the cellular system of separating
buses and circuits; synchronous converters, including as a fundamental
development the application of such apparatus to the design
of unified distribution networks; protective devices; arc lamps;
incandescent lamps; oil switches of high capacity, which overcame
a serious limiting factor in the development of electrical systems
on an extensive and economical plan; regulating systems and
apparatus; both alternating and direct-current generators and
motors; train control systems; and transformers. He endorsed
and promoted many modern forms of industrial organization and
methods of advancing employees' welfare, and practically created
the Company policy of employees' representation and the recognition
of the shop workers' part in the success of the corporation.
It was Mr. Rice and Dr. Steinmetz who,
in 1900, recommended the creation of General
Electric's Research Laboratoryand who in 1893, engaged Dr. Charles P. Steinmetz,
the mathematical genius, as a member of the Company's engineering
Thomson-Rice Arc Lamp (pre-GE era)
Schenectady in Rice's
Mr. Rice's home after 1894 was in Schenectady
where he was a trustee of Union College. He held A.B. and
A.M. degrees from Central High School, Philadelphia; an honorary
A.M. from Harvard, 1903; a D.Sc. from Union University, 1906;
a D.Eng. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1917; and
a D.Sc. from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a Chevalier
of the Legion of Honor. Mr. Rice was president of the American
Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1917, from which organization
he received in 1931 the Edison Medal "for his contributions
to the development of electrical systems and his encouragement
of scientific research in industry."
He was a member of the Institution
of Civil Engineers of England, of the English Institution
of Electric Engineers and of the Society of Illuminating Engineers.
He was a director of the General Electric Company, the International
General Electric Company, Electric Bond and Share Company,
British Thomson-Houston Company, Ltd., The Schenectady Trust
Company, the Detroit Edison Company and for many years of
the Radio Corporation of America.
In 1884 Rice married Helen K. Doen,
with whom he had three children. After Helen's death he married
her sister, Alice M. Doen, in 1897.
E.W. Rice at Osaka Lamp Company 1917. He visited Japan, China,
Philippines, Hong Kong during the trip.
E.W. Rice became a member of the Order of
Rising Sun by the Emperor in 1917 for his work in promoting the
development of technology in Japan. The Order of the Rising Sun is
the second most prestigious award in Japan, few foreigners have ever
had the honor of receiving it. Rice visited the Tokio Electric Company,
lamp companies, power plants, and became friends with Baron Mitsui.
After Japan he visited GE lamp factory sites in Shanghai,China. In
the Philippines and Hong Kong he visited small power plants and suggested
E.W. Rice Purchased a 1901 Baker Electric Car.
He used the vehicle occasionally. The car still runs today.
His Baker Electric Car video
Rice died in Schenectady, New York, 25 November
1935. Rice Road was named so in 1936 after E.W. Rice Junior. Rice
road was moved for the building of I-890. A section of the road remains
close to Rotterdam Square Mall. The Rock and plaque marking Rice road
was removed. The plaque was saved and remains in storage.
Diary of a Trip to Japan and other Countries of the Orient" by
E.W. Rice "Men
and Volts" by John Hammond
"Workshop of Engineers" by John Miller
Photos by General Electric company photographers, from the archives
of the Edison Tech Center and Schenectady Museum
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