Bláthy, Ottó Titusz

(Tata, August 11th, 1860 – Budapest, September 26th, 1939)

Bláthy, Ottó Titusz

After finishing the secondary school at the age of 17, at Tata, a small West-Hungarian town of particular atmosphere, he went to Vienna and registered at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Vienna Külső csatoló from where he graduated as a mechanical engineer in 1882.

Between 1881 and 1883, he worked in the workshop and later on the construction department of the Hungarian State Railways Machine Factory. From 1st July 1883, he worked on the electrical department of the Ganz Works.

He turned his interest more and more towards electro-technology and thoroughly studied Faraday's experiments and Maxwell's theoretical work. He soon recognised a method of practically applying Ohm's magnetic law, the connection between the magnetic field and the excitation creating it. Bláthy was the first who was able to calculate magnetic circuits using magnetising curves and, in this way, economically design electric direct current machines.

In 1884, he designed an automatic mercury voltage regulator for direct current dynamos; this was his first patent. The voltage control of generators in Cerchi power station and other Italian plants was carried out by means of the same kind of automatic equipment.

High accuracy torsion watt meters developed in 1884 were manufactured on the basis of Bláthy's patent. With these instruments the power of alternating current could be measured for any phase shift between voltage and current.

In 1884-85, three Ganz Factory engineers, Ottó Bláthy, Miksa Déri and Károly Zipernowsky, developed a new power distribution system, which was based on the application of transformers. On Bláthy's suggestion, transformers were constructed with a closed iron core; their joint work resulted in one of the most important inventions in electro-technology at that time. This system is still the basis of long-distance power transfer and high-voltage electric energy distribution. In 1885 they took out a patent relating to alternating current closed iron core transformers.

The innovation was presented at the National Exhibition in Budapest in 1885. The entire area of the exhibition was illuminated by alternating current, of 70 Hz frequency, distributed at 1,350 V primary voltage, and 75 small shell-type transformers supplied 1,067 incandescent lamps.

During the following decades, the Ganz factory manufactured and installed several hundred power distribution systems using their own components.

In 1886 they installed the Rome-Cerchi power station that was the first site in the world where alternating current generators were connected in parallel – on Bláhy's suggestion. The Ganz factory produced electrical equipment for the power network of the city of Rome over several decades.

In Tivoli, near Rome, a hydroelectric power plant was built in 1892 which was the largest facility of this kind in Europe. A 5000 V power line was installed to Rome to transport electric energy (through a 28 km long power transmission line), thus becoming the first network where high voltage AC generators supply power to a city network located at a distance, and where generators driven by both steam engines (Rome-Cerchi) and water turbines (Tivoli) operated in conjunction. For reliable operation an automatic water turbine controller was needed and Bláthy's floating piston servomotor revolution speed regulator was the proper construction.

In 1889 the Ganz Factory marketed the first induction wattmeters (consumption meters) manufactured on the basis of Bláthy's patent.

He was awarded the Grand Prize at the World Exposition in Paris in 1900 for using fractional slot winding in the winding of the stators of water turbine generators. Brown-Bovery AG, Switzerland, and Siemens-Schuckert Werke, Berlin also bought the patents of his 4-pole rotor construction. Having recognized the importance of oil cooling, he designed types of oil transformers with higher and higher power capacities.

Bláthy played significant role in the development of steam turbines at the beginning of the past century, as well. He designed his turbogenerator in 1903, and the Ganz Works could present a turbogenerator of 4,200 kW power at the exhibition in Torino in 1911.

From 1895 on, the development of the transformers of the Ganz Works was associated with the names of Ottó Titusz Bláthy and Kálmán Kandó. Déri was already working in Vienna and Károly Zipernowsky became a professor at the Technical University.

Kálmán Kandó, started work at the electrical section of the Ganz Works in 1894, understood that Nicola Tesla's induction engine could be used for railway traction. He and Bláthy began to investigate the problems of three-phase electric system including the traction. Bláthy developed the one-phase generator and transformer into a three-phase one and it was he, in fact, who actually improved the phase-converter electric locomotive devised in 1923.

In the 1930's, past 70, Bláthy wanted to continue and to finish the development of high-power electric railway traction, what Kandó had not been able to accomplish owing to his sudden death in 1931.

He had more than hundred patents. His studies on Hungarian and foreign language counts about fifty.

He was a colourful personality. Since his young age, he had been keen on cycling and made tours throughout the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Italy and Bosnia by bicycle. When the era of automobiles arrived he became an enthusiastic driver, as well. He was also fond of playing chess. In his book titled 'Vielzügige Schachaufgaben', he edited end games of more than hundred moves.

Memberships: honorary doctor at the Technical Universities of Vienna and Budapest (1917), honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1927).

Honours: He was awarded a long range of foreign and Hungarian decorations, such as Corona d'Italia Cross (1907), Wahrman Prize of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1909), Middle Cross of Hungarian Order of Honour (1933), Marczibányi Prize of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1935), the Kandó-medallion of the Hungarian Society of Engineers and Architects.