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Charles Gordon Curtis

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Charles Gordon Curtis (b. 20 April 1860 in Boston, died March 1953 in Central Islip, Suffolk County, New York) was an American engineer, inventor, and patent attorney. He is best known as the developer of the Curtis steam turbine

He went into partenrship with Charles Crocker and Schuyler S. Wheeler to form The Curtis, Crocker, Wheeler Co.

Curtis patented a steam turbine which combined the principles of the de Laval single stage turbine and the Parsons compound turbine into a multi-stage velocity-compounded impulse turbine. In 1897 he started work at General Electric Co Schenectady to develop his turbine concept commercially. One of his first turbines was rated at 50 kW, and had an horizontal shaft. Larger machines were designed with the assistance of W. L. Emmet and Oscar Junggren.[1]

Note: At about the same time, Rateau developed and patented a multi-stage impulse turbine. Superficially similar to the Curtis turbine, it was a pressure-compounded impulse turbine. Both Curtis and Rateau increased the nozzle area from one stage to the next by increasing the extent of the arc of admission, keeping the blade height constant, until eventually full-arc admission was reached.

In 1903 the first Curtis vertical turbines were constructed by the General Electric Co. for the Newport & Fall River Street Railway Co. It operated in the Newport, R.I., generating station until June 1927. It was transferred to the Harding Street Station of the Indianapolis Power & Light Co. for display and later moved to the company's E.W. Stout Station. In the same year, a 5000 kW vertical turbine generator was built for the Chicago Edison Co's Fisk Street Station. It was said to be the world's most powerful at the time. The vertical concept was abandoned by GE c.1905.

The Curtis turbine was developed by the International Marine Curtis Turbine Company for use as a marine propulsion, which in turn licensed it to others, including the John Brown and Co, who built the Brown-Curtis turbine used in many ships in the Royal Navy.

In 1899 Curtis developed the first functioning gas turbine in the United States. He also worked on improvements to internal combustion engines (on two-stroke diesel engines) and on the drive of torpedoes.

See Wikipedia entry.

Note: Curtis's use of successive rows of impulse blading was anticipated to some extent by James Pilbrow, who in 1843 obtained British Patent No. 9658 for an impulse steam turbine with contra-rotating bladed wheels. It is unlikely that this was developed by him for practical use.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'A Century of Progress - The General Electric Story 1876-1978, Hall of History, 1981