Heinz History Museum exhibits 250 years of Pittsburgh region’s inventive genius


Modern life owes much to innovations celebrated in the Senator John Heinz History Center’s new exhibition of 250 years of Pittsburgh contributions to better ways of doing things.

Consider electricity. Entrepreneur George Westinghouse, Jr., developed the efficient system for distributing alternating current (AC), which turns on almost every light bulb, computer, and electrical appliance today. That’s one big worldwide impact of a Pittsburgher exhibited in the History Center’s two-story, 16,000 square-feet innovation extravaganza, which opens November 8.

Westinghouse also invented the air-brakes that made railroads safe. Speaking of railroads, music lovers flocked to the most famous rail line in music after composer Billy Strayhorn, who began his career at the Pittsburgh Music Institute, wrote “Take the A-Train.”    Dozens of other artists and entertainers also had roots in Pittsburgh.

People live longer too because of Pittsburgh medical pioneers like Jonas Salk, creator of the polio vaccine, and Thomas Starzl, prolific scientist and father of modern organ transplantation. Pittsburghers also found ways to go farther faster. The modern aluminum industry, founded in Pittsburgh, made it possible to build lightweight airplanes. America’s first superhighway – the Pennsylvania Turnpike – stretched its initial leg through the mountains of western Pennsylvania. Steel bridges crossed rivers and bays throughout America using wire-rope cables pioneered by John Roebling, engineering by American Bridge Company, and structural metals from U.S. Steel. Indeed, Pittsburgh’s most famous product – steel — gave backbone to vast parts of modern infrastructure.

These few examples only begin to tell the story of Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation. The region’s history of invention turns and turns with curiosity and excitement, like George Ferris’ amazing revolving wheel. He helped millions of people to discover the simple pleasure of going in circles.

Source: Heinz History Center, Wikipedia
Writer: Joseph Plummer

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