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SEL founder inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Edmund O. Schweitzer, III, joins the ranks of Edison, Ford, and Tesla

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.” 

Schweitzer will join 562 outstanding men and women who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Nikola Tesla. The NIHF, working in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, is dedicated to honoring the legacies of visionary U.S. patent holders and advancing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

“So many of the inventors recognized by the National Inventors Hall of Fame are heroes of mine,” said Schweitzer. “My father was a prolific inventor, and he inspired creativity in many folks, including me. I am humbled by this incredible honor."

The induction ceremony will take place in Washington D.C. this May. Visit, to learn more about the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Dr. Schweitzer and the other inventors who are part of the 2019 class of inductees.

About Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories
SEL invents, designs, and builds digital products and systems that protect power grids around the world. This technology prevents blackouts and enables customers to improve power system reliability, safety and cost. SEL is headquartered in Pullman, Washington, and has more than 5,200 employees around the world. SEL has manufactured products in the United States since 1984 and now serves customers in 163 countries. SEL provides unmatched technical support, customer service and a 10-year worldwide warranty.