Philip Torchio was born in Vercana, Como, Italy, 2 August 1868. Torchio was educated by private tutors and at the Como high school before entering the University of Pavia, where he was graduated with a A.B. in 1890. During the next three years he studied engineering at the Royal Polytechnic, Milan, and upon receiving his M.E. and E.E. degrees there in 1893 he went to United States. For two years he was employed as a draftsman and chief draftsman by the Sprague Electric Elevator Co. in New York City. In January 1895 he entered the service of the Edison Electric Illuminating Co. as a draftsman and four years later was made engineer of economics. When this company was consolidated with the New York Gas & Electric Light, Heat & Power Co. in 1901 to form the New York Edison Co., Torchio was made engineer of distribution and in 1905 chief electrical engineer. He was elected vice president in 1924 and in 1931became senior vice president. Upon the formation of the consolidated Edison Co. in 1936 he became vice president of that corporation, continuing as such until August 1938 when he retired. The progress made in the distribution of electric energy in New York City from the isolated direct current generating stations to the large alternating current central stations with their extensive interconnections was a result of Torchio's careful analyses and experimentations in which he was always seeking improved methods for insuring higher continuity of service and lower cost of production and distribution. His ingenuity in solving scientific and engineering problems was instrumental in advancing high-voltage transmission and distribution. The committee on high potential disturbances of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, of which he was an active member and chairman, was depended upon to solve the early growing problems of the central station. For example, Torchio was one of the first to use reactance coils, which permit the unlimited interconnection of systems and, at the same time, confine troubles to a limited area and reduce the magnitude of such troubles to the capacity of available protective equipment. Torchio's investigations and analyses contributed much toward the satisfactory performance of high-voltage electric power cables and the successful adaptation of large generators to the requirements of electric power systems.
During the World War I, Torchio was a consultant in developing, with the government's representatives, plans for interchange of electric power between different electric companies along the east coast to meet the greatly increased requirements of the war industries. He was also a consultant to the navy department in the design of electric cables for use in the large electrically-propelled cruisers and battleships.
Torchio held patents in America and Europe on many improvements in electrical apparatus and devices for the production, transmission and distribution of electric energy. Among his noteworthy inventions were: the reactance coil, reactor, ground and fault detector for electric distribution systems, automatic circuit breakers, protective device for busbar circuits, protective device for electric cable joints, electric cable joints (oil-filled joints) and insulating covering for cables.
Torchio was a member of many engineering societies, including the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (Fellow), Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, Edison Electric Institute, New York Electrical Society (president 1923-24), Franklin Institute, Illuminating Engineering Society and Associazione Electrotecnica Italiana. He served as chairman of a number of important technical committees of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, National Electric Light Association and Association of Edison Illuminating Companies to conduct investigations for improving the engineering art. He published thirty-eight papers in transactions of technical societies and in technical magazines or delivered before international congresses and graduate students (Columbia University, 1903, Johns Hopkins university, 1921, and Yale university, 1922). He was made a cavalier of the Crown of Italy in 1926 and a grand officer in 1932 and was awarded the 1939 Edison Medal of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers "For distinguished contributions to the art of central station engineering and for achievement in the production, distribution and utilization of electrical energy."
A resident of Bronxville, New York, from 1905 until his death, he became a naturalized-American citizen in 1912 and was a trustee of Bronxville from 1924 to 1929 and mayor from 1929 to 1931. He was married in Milan, Italy, October 28, 1893, to Angela, and they had four children: Anna Luisa, Angela, Philip, and Brady. Torchio's passed away in Bronxville, New York, on 14 January 1942.
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