SEL founder inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Tuesday, January 8

PULLMAN, Washington — Edmund O. Schweitzer, III, president and chief technology officer of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories is to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in recognition of his invention of the digital protective relay. Schweitzer was included in the list of 19 inventors to receive this honor that was announced today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“Schweitzer brought the first microprocessor-based digital protective relay to market, revolutionizing the performance of electric power systems with computer-based protection and control equipment and making a major impact in the electric power utility industry,” said the NIHF in its press release. “Schweitzer’s more precise, more reliable digital relay was one-eighth the size, one-tenth the weight and one-third the price of previous mechanical relays.”

Schweitzer invented the digital relay while a doctoral student at Washington State University in the late 1970s. He founded SEL in 1982 and began manufacturing and selling the new product out of the basement of his Pullman, Washington, home. Over the years, Schweitzer has continued to invent a steady stream of technologies and products. He will be awarded his 200th patent on January 15, 2019.

Today, SEL equipment is used by utilities and industrial customers throughout the United States and in 163 countries. Its devices can be found in nearly every substation in North America. In addition to protective relays, the 100 percent employee-owned company manufactures a wide variety of products and technologies, including rugged computers, cybersecurity devices, meters and fault indicators.

“When Ed showed the industry that microprocessor-based relays could be made to accurately replace electromechanical relays, he embarked on a journey that changed the industry,” said Jonathan Sykes, senior manager of system protection at Pacific Gas and Electric and IEEE Fellow. “Now, there are generations of engineers who do not remember an industry without microprocessors. The first devices he invented not only replaced their electromechanical predecessors, they also provided applications that helped increase the reliability of the electrical grid and made it more affordable and safer.”

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