Edmund O. Schweitzer III

Edmund O. Schweitzer III

Founder, President and Chief Technology Officer
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories
BSEE '68, MSEE '71

For his pioneering work in digital protection, significant technical success and global entrepreneurial achievement.

Edmund O. Schweitzer III started Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) in the basement of his Pullman, Washington, home with a $2,000 investment. His goal was to develop and manufacture digital protective relays and related products and services.

Schweitzer invented the SEL-21, the first microprocessor-based protective relay. The invention revolutionized the industry by reducing the size, cost and complexity of protective relays while adding communications and reporting capabilities, and has been foundational to major advancements in modern power systems. He shipped the first products to Otter Tail Power Company in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, in 1984.

Today, SEL is a 100% employee-owned company. It employs more than 5,200 people and serves customers in 165 countries. SEL invents, designs, manufactures, and supports products and services for power system protection, monitoring, control, automation and metering. The company’s mission is to make electric power safer, more reliable and more economical.

SEL operates 61 offices in the United States and 46 international locations. In 2019, Schweitzer established the company in Purdue’s Discovery Park District in West Lafayette. It will become the company’s fourth manufacturing center.

A globally recognized pioneer in digital protection, Schweitzer is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He also is a recipient of the highest award given by the IEEE, the Medal in Power Engineering, for his leadership in revolutionizing the performance of electrical power systems with computer-based protection and control equipment.

Schweitzer’s accomplishments as an inventor were foreshadowed while he was a student at Purdue. On his first day of classes, a professor asked the students to explain why they wanted to become engineers.

“I said, ‘I want to take science, math and technology, and try to make the world a little better,’” Schweitzer recalls.

He encourages students to work hard and persevere in order to reap the benefits of being a creator and inventor: “Invention stems from realizing problems that need to be solved, thinking, learning, sharing, trying and never, ever giving up. Also, I believe creativity stems from the self, and invention satisfies something very important inside.”

Schweitzer says Purdue was the right place for him to have begun his quest to invent. “My Purdue engineering education helped prepare me to take my interest in electric power and start my own company to see if I could make things people would use and like.”

Looking back on a 40-plusyear career that continues today, Schweitzer says what he finds most rewarding is that he never gave up on his early dream, “staying with it for decades and seeing things work better, and creating an organization that is independent, creative and successful.”

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Alan Kay

Career Highlights

1984-present Founder, President and Chief Technology Officer, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories
1982–1985 Associate Professor, Washington State University
1979-1982 Assistant Professor, Washington State University
1977-1979 Assistant Professor, Ohio University
1968-1973 U.S. Department of Defense


1968 BSEE, Purdue University
1971 MSEE, Purdue University
1977 PhD, Washington State University