Norvin Green


Norvin Green (April 17, 1818 – February 13, 1893) was an American businessman, physician and politician. He served as president of the Western Union Telegraph Company from 1878 until his death in 1893.[1] He was a founding member and the first president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), which later became part of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).[2]

Norvin Green
Norvin Green.png
Member of the Kentucky House of Representatives
In office
1850–1853, 1867
Personal details
Born(1818-04-17)April 17, 1818
New Albany, Indiana, U.S.
DiedFebruary 13, 1893(1893-02-13) (aged 74)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Resting placeCave Hill Cemetery
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Martha English
(m. 1840)
EducationUniversity of Louisville
  • Physician
  • businessman
  • politician

Early lifeEdit

Green was born in New Albany, Indiana, on April 17, 1818, the son of Virginians Joseph Strother Green and Susan Ball.[3][4] The family moved to Breckinridge County, Kentucky, when he was a child.[5] As a young man he operated a flatboat grocery on the Ohio River, then ran a business that cut and sold cord wood to steamboat operators.[5] He was able to earn enough money from these ventures to finance his medical education at the University of Louisville, where he earned his degree in 1840.[6] That same year he married Martha English of Carrollton, Kentucky. They had five children together.[3]

Career in KentuckyEdit

Following his graduation, Dr. Green practiced medicine in Louisville and Carrollton, Kentucky. He served as a doctor at the Western Military Institute, where he became friends with future presidential candidate James Blaine, who was an instructor there.[7][6] In 1850 Green was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where he served until 1853 (and again in 1867).[8] He was appointed to supervise the construction of a federal customs house and post office in Louisville in 1853.[6] At that time he became interested in telegraphy, and invested in telegraph lines that connected Louisville and New Orleans. He formed, and became president of, the Southwestern Telegraph Company.[5][7]

Career in New YorkEdit

Green moved to New York City in 1857.[5] There he worked on the consolidation of many telegraph companies, culminating with the formation of Western Union in 1866, where he was named vice president.[7] He stayed at Western Union for the rest of his life, except for three years when he returned to politics in Kentucky, being nominated to run for U.S. Senator.[6] Upon the death of Western Union president William Orton in 1878, Green was named president of that company.[9] He, along with others including Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, formed the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1884; he was its first president.[7]


Norvin Green died on February 13, 1893, at his home in Louisville, Kentucky. He had been in ill health, and died from complications of intestinal disease.[1] He was buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

His grandson, Norvin Hewitt Green, donated the land that became Norvin Green State Forest in New Jersey.[10]


  1. ^ a b "Sacramento Daily Union 13 February 1893 — California Digital Newspaper Collection". Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  2. ^ "History of IEEE". Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  3. ^ a b The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Vol. XI. James T. White & Company. 1901. pp. 550–551. Retrieved August 6, 2020 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Revolution, Daughters of the American (1919). Lineage Book - National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Daughters of the American Revolution.
  5. ^ a b c d Kleber, John E. (2001). The Encyclopedia of Louisville. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2100-0.
  6. ^ a b c d "Dr. Norvin Green's Death". The New York Times. Louisville, Kentucky. February 13, 1893. p. 1. Retrieved August 7, 2020 – via
  7. ^ a b c d "Norvin Green - Engineering and Technology History Wiki". Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  8. ^ Johnson, Andrew (1967). The Papers of Andrew Johnson. Univ. of Tennessee Press. ISBN 978-0-87049-946-3.
  9. ^ Electrical World. McGraw-Hill. 1893.
  10. ^ "Norvin Hewitt Green". Ringwood Manor. Retrieved May 27, 2020.

External linksEdit