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Memorial Tributes: Volume 6 (1993)

Chapter: Gabriel Otto Wessenauer

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Suggested Citation:"Gabriel Otto Wessenauer." National Academy of Engineering. 1993. Memorial Tributes: Volume 6. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2231.
Page 250
Suggested Citation:"Gabriel Otto Wessenauer." National Academy of Engineering. 1993. Memorial Tributes: Volume 6. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2231.
Page 251
Suggested Citation:"Gabriel Otto Wessenauer." National Academy of Engineering. 1993. Memorial Tributes: Volume 6. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2231.
Page 252

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GABRIEL OTTO WESSENAUER 1 906-1 990 WRITTEN BY ROLAND A. KAMPMEIER SUBMITTED BY THE NAE HOME SECRETARY G. O. WESSENAUER, manager of power for the Tennessee Valley Authority for twenty-five years, ctied on September 30, 1990, at the age of eighty-three. He was born on October 21, 1906, at Sewickley, Pennsylvania, the son of Gabriel and Meta Schietter Wessenauer. After study- ing in the local public schools, he entered Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he earned a B.S. in civil engineering. He had a high scholastic standing and was elected to Tau Beta Pi. G. O. Wessenauer was 'Jim" to his family circle and church friends. He was 'Wess" to his fellow workers and business and professional associates. After a total of eight years with the West Virginia Power and Transmission Company and the West Penn Power Company 1 I, Wessjoined the Tennessee ValleyAuthority (TVA) as an assistant hydraulic engineer in 1935. He was assistant to the manager of power by 1941, was acting manager of power in 1943, and became manager of power in 1944. He held that position, in which he was in charge of the entire TVA power program, until he retired in January 1970. He then continued to do some consulting for TVA and others. Wess was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in April 1968. He was a member of the Academy's Steering Com- mittee on Power Plant Siting and of the NRC Commission of Sociotechnical Systems' Committee on Processing and Utiliza- tion of Fossil Fuels. 251

252 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES He served on numerous national and international advisory groups concerned with electric power supply, its reliability, its environmental impacts, and research and development of better ways to provide electric service. He served as chairman of the Electric Research Council and as a director of the Atomic Industrial Forum. He was a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), an honorary life member of the Arneri- can Public PowerAssociation, and a member of the Chattanooga Engineers Club. Wess received the Rockefeller Public Service Awarc! for outstand- ing service to the nation as a federal employee. He was the author of several papers, including one that won the ASCE Collingwood Prize and three papers for World Power Conferences. It would be impossible to record the illustrious history of the TVA and its power program without referring to Wess time and time again. Likewise, a memorial tribute for Wess would be far from complete without at least a brief review of the story of TVA power. It was he who steered the TVA power program for more than twenty-five years far longer than any other person. During his stewardship the TVA power system outstripped all others in the nation in size and scope and set records for efficiency and low cost. The constant goal of Wess and the team he assembled and led was to provide the people of the Tennessee Valley region with an abundant supply of electric energy at the lowest practicable cost. The system's generating capacity was expanded tenfold under his direction. It evolve c3 from a predominantly hydroelectric system to one that included some of the worId's largest and most cost-effective coal-burning power plants, and nuclear plants were being added. The major transmission voltage was increased from 161 kilovolts to 500 kilovolts. The cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity use, which TVA had already lowered dramatically, was further reduced. Wess saw clearly the importance of electric energy in the social and economic development of the region. He workocl with the municipal and cooperative systems that distribute TVA power to encourage industrial development and to see that rural distribu- tion lines were extencled to every farm and cabin. Fewer than

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This series presents biographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Engineering.

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