Following the Gymnasium Steinmetz went on to the University of Breslau to begin work on his undergraduate degree in 1883. He was on the verge of finishing his doctorate in 1888 when he came under investigation by the German police for activities on behalf of a socialist university group and articles he had written for a local socialist newspaper, then a popular ideological pursuit among secular German Jews.
As socialist meetings and press had been banned in Germany, Steinmetz fled to Zürich in 1888 to escape possible arrest. Faced with an expiring visa, he emigrated to the United States in 1889. He changed his first name to Charles in order to sound more American and chose the middle name Proteus after a childhood taunt given to him by classmates. Proteus was a wise hunchbacked character from the Odyssey who knew many secrets and he felt it suited him.
Cornell University Professor Ronald R. Kline, the author of Steinmetz: Engineer and Socialist, contends that other factors were more directly involved in Steinmetz's decision to leave his homeland, such as the fact that he was in arrears with his tuition at the University of Breslau and that life at home with his father, stepmother, and their daughters was full of tension.
Despite his earlier efforts and interest in socialism, by 1922 Steinmetz concluded that socialism would never work in the U.S. because the country lacked a "powerful, centralized government of competent men, remaining continuously in office" and because "only a small percentage of Americans accept this viewpoint today." 
Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Steinmetz went to work for Rudolf Eickemeyer in Yonkers, New York, and published in the field of magnetic hysteresis, which gave him world-wide professional recognition. Eickemeyer's firm developed transformers for use in the transmission of electrical power among many other mechanical and electrical devices. In 1893 Eickemeyer's company, along with all of its patents and designs, was bought by the newly formed General Electric Company, where he quickly became known as the engineering wizard in GE's engineering community.
AC steady state circuit theory
Steinmetz's work revolutionized ACcircuit theory and analysis, which had been carried out using complex, time-consuming calculus-based methods. By 1893, Steinmetz simplified these complicated methods to "a simple problem of algebra". He was the first to use complex numberphasor representation, whereby the letter j is used to designate the 90 degree rotation operator in AC system analysis. In July 1898 he published the breaking article "Complex-Quantities-and-Their-Use-in-Electrical-Engineering" based on his findings in 1893. His seminal books and many American Institute of Electrical Engineers papers "taught a whole generation of engineers how to deal with AC phenomena.
AC transient theory
Steinmetz also made greater strides to the understanding of lightning phenomena. He undertook a systematic study of it, resulting in experiments of man-made lightning in the laboratory; this work was published. Steinmetz was called the "forger of thunderbolts," being the first to create artificial lightning in his GE football field-sized laboratory and high towers, using 120,000 volt generators. He erected a lightning tower to attract lightning and studied the patterns and effects of lightning resulting in several theories and ideas.
Marconi Wireless Station in Somerset, New Jersey in 1921. Steinmetz is at centre; he died two years later.
His connection to Union College is celebrated with the annual Steinmetz Symposium, a day-long event in which Union undergraduates give presentations on research they have done. Steinmetz Hall, which houses the Union College computer center, is named after him.
A public park in north Schenectady, New York was named for him in 1931.
Based on Steinmetz experiments, Steinmetz' formula defines the approximate heat energy due to magnetic hysteresis released per cycle per unit area of magnetic material.[c]Steinmetz equivalent circuit theory is still widely used for the design and testing of induction motors.
At the time of his death, Steinmetz held over 200 patents:
In the animated television show The Simpsons, his name was used as a kind of expletive by the industrialist character Mr. Burns ("Oh, quit cogitating, Steinmetz!") in reference to someone who was overthinking a decision.
Novelist John Ball grew up in Steinmetz's house. His parents were graduate students paid by GE to live with and take care of the man Ball called "Uncle Steinie". Ball used to tell Steinmetz stories to the Southern California Mystery Writers Association meetings.
^Quoting from Alger, "Steinmetz was truly the patron saint of the GE motor business."
^Quoting from Hammond, "This has placed him before the public as an atheist.* The title he did not deny. The writer, however, would put him down as a confirmed agnostic, for an atheist is a person who knows there is no God, and Steinmetz was not of that..."
^, where η is hysteresis coefficient, βmax is maximum flux density and k is an empirical exponent.