Legacy of Innovation

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Leaders in Innovation

Legacy of Innovation

Meet 2019 NIHF Inductee Edmund O. Schweitzer III!

We are honored to have Edmund O. Schweitzer III join the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF).

The Invention

Digital protective relays detect electrical faults that cause power outages. The first protective relays relied on coils and were electromagnetic.

Schweitzer’s first microprocessor-based digital protective relay, the SEL 21, was multifunctional, protecting power systems, recording data and detecting faults in lines more effectively. His design has led to reduced costs, flexible operation options and increased reliability

The Inventor

Born into a family of innovators, it is not surprising that Schweitzer ended up an innovator. His grandfather and father were both inventors and entrepreneurs, starting their own companies and patenting their ideas.

“I’ve always been very, very interested in energy, and of course, my father and grandfather having dedicated their careers to electric power, well, there’s probably some kind of a genetic predilection there, I suppose,” Schweitzer said.

Thanks to his passion for studying electric power, Schweitzer was able to bring the first microprocessor-based digital protective relay to market.  This product led to him founding Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) in Pullman, Washington where they develop and manufacture protective relays. Today, SEL is 100 percent employee owned and hires local graduates and interns from Washington State University — one of Schweitzer’s alma maters.

“Why shouldn’t we invent, and wake up every day wanting to go to work to find a better way to do something for other people?” Schweitzer said.

The Impact

SEL’s products protect homes, hospitals and businesses in 163 countries around the world. In recognition of Schweitzer’s impact on global power systems, he has been honored with the Alumni Achievement Award from Washington State University, the IEEE Medal in Power Engineering and election to the National Academy of Engineering. 

SEL is a sponsor of the 2019 Induction Ceremony, and a proud supporter of Schweitzer’s achievements as the founder of the company.

Schweitzer will join the ranks of other global innovators in the National Inventors Hall of Fame during the 2019 Induction Ceremony on May 2. 

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