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The General Electric Company, commonly known simply as GE, is an American multinational corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut. GE operates in the market segments of Energy, Technology Infrastructure, Capital Finance and Consumer and Industrial products.
The General Electric Company traces its foundation to Thomas Alva Edison, who had pulled together his various business interests under the Edison General Electric Company of Schenectady, New York, and Charles Coffin, head of the Thomson-Houston Electric Company of Lynn, Massachusetts. The two companies merged in 1892, incorporating in New York while maintaining plant operations at both the Schenectady and Lynn facilities (they continue to operate to this day). At roughly the same time, General ElectricÕs Canadian counterpart, Canadian General Electric, was founded.
In 1896, General Electric became one of the original twelve companies listed on the then newly-created Dow Jones Industrial Average. Though GE has not remained on the Dow index continuously, it remains the only original company listed today, 116+ years later. In 1900, after only eight years of existence, the General Electric Company established a research laboratory that would help define and maintain GEÕs market dominance in the years to come.
Established in a carriage barn in the backyard of Charles Proteus Steinmetz, the chief proponent of the development of a research laboratory to maintain GEÕs corporate edge in the field of lighting and electricity, the original research laboratory opened in 1900. The facility was intended, according to Charles Coffin, GEÕs first CEO, to Òbe a research laboratory for commercial applications of new principles, and even for the discovery of those principles." Willis Whitney, a chemistry professor from MIT, was selected to become the first director of the laboratory and GE began to defend GEÕs primary asset at the time, incandescent lighting, through rigorous research and development. In 1908, William Coolidge, a GE scientist, invented the ductile tungsten filament, securing GEÕs technological leadership in the market and articulating the role of the GE research lab. In 1911, General ElectricÕs existing lighting division absorbed the National Electric Lamp Association (NELA), establishing the headquarters of its newly expanded division at Nela Park in East Cleveland, Ohio (which is still the headquarters for GEÕs lighting business). General Electric founded the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1919 to research, develop and promote international radio and retail radio sales. RCA eventually separated from GE in 1930, quickly growing into an industrial giant itself. GE expanded its consumer offerings, expanding on its first commercial appliance, an electric fan developed in the 1890s, by offering a full line of heating and cooking devices beginning in 1907. GE Aircraft Engines (the official name since only 1987) traces its roots to 1917 when the United States government began looking for an airplane engine ÒboosterÓ for the emerging U.S. aviation industry.
Over the remainder of the twentieth century, GE scientists have amassed thousands of patents and won two Nobel Prizes (Irving Langmuir, Chemistry in 1932 and Ivar Giaever, Physics in 1973). GE continues to be an innovative leader in the sectors of lighting, transportation, industrial products, power transmission and medical equipment. Currently, GE operates four state-of-the-art facilities throughout the world: Niskayuna, New York (near the original carriage barn); Bangalore, India; Shanghai, China; and Munich, Germany. For over a century, General Electric has maintained its growth by bringing innovative technology to the world in both commercial and consumer applications.
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