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Thumbnail of Herbert Thacker Herr (source)
Herbert Thacker Herr
(19 Mar 1876 - 19 Dec 1933)

American mechanical engineer.

Herbert Thacker Herr


Herbert Thacker Herr. Colorization © todayinsci.
Herbert Thacker Herr
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Herbert Thacker Herr1 began his mechanical engineering career, as an apprentice machinist with the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. He took the admission examination to Yale University in June 1895, and graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale with a Ph.B. in 1899.

In the following six years, Herr gained experience as a machinist and draftsman with the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and in positions at several other railroads. During this time, he became aware of the mechanical aspects the train machinery and addressed some of their problems.

In 1904, he contributed two inventions to improve their operation. He designed a braking device able to control two or more locomotives hauling a train. His second device adjusted the braking power on a railroad car depending on the weight of the car.

By 1906, aged 30, Herr was perhaps the youngest to be become the general superintendent of a railroad company, when he was appointed by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. A short time later, he rose to the position of vice-president and general manager of the Duquesne Mining & Reduction Company, Arizona.

His inventive skills designing train-control equipment were recognized by George Westinghouse, who recruited him in 1908 to serve as general manager of the Westinghouse Machine Company. In this productive phase of his mechanical engineering career, Herr produced further significant inventions, including 17 patents for the Westinghouse Air Brake Company.

Herr contibuted designs for oil engine to simplify their design, provide automatic starting and improve control. For two-cycle engines, he created an easy method  to reverse their operation, and for four-cycle engines, he contributed the application of rotary valves.

As his field expanded to include turbines, Herr enabled design simplifications and increased capacity. He also refined the processes in their manufacturing, a notable example being improvements to the attachment of the turbine blades.

Further expanding the range of his work, by 1916, he invented ship control-mechanisms giving the capability of remote-control bewteen the bridge of a ship and its main engines. During World War I, the U.S. Navy applied a modified version of this control in the operation of several of its major ships.

After George Westinghouse had died in Mar1914, Herr's career grew with Westinghouse's company. Herr was eventually elected a vice-president and general manager of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co.,

Herr was also director of the Pittsburgh Meter Company, vice president and director of the Westinghouse Air Spring Company, and Westinghouse Gear & Dynamometer Company, and the Rodman Chemical Company.2

From 1920-30, Herr ran the Westinghouse South Philadelphia works. His death came three years later, in 1933, after an illnes of about five months, due to a sarcoma of the lung.

1. American Council of Learned Societies, Dictionary of American Biography, Supplements 1-2: To 1940 (1944-1958).

2. George Worthington (ed.), Electrical Review and Western Electrician (30 Jun 1917), 1112-13. (source)

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  • 19 Mar - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Herr's birth.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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