In this paper a new nonlinear excitation controller design to enhance transient stability of multimachine power systems is presented. Partial feedback linearization is first used to transform the nonlinear power system model into a partially linear system comprising a reduced-order linear part and a nonlinear dynamic autonomous part. Then a linear state feedback stabilizing controller is designed for the reduced-order linear part using optimal control theory to enhance the stability of the whole system. In this way, the performance of the stabilizing controller would be independent of the operating points of the power system and therefore is superior to those designed for completely linearized systems. It is shown that the controller design method ensures the stability of the nonlinear dynamic autonomous part. The design method is applicable to multimachine power systems but tested on a 3-machine 11-bus two-area test system. The performance of the proposed control scheme to large disturbances is evaluated, through computer simulation, and compared with a conventional power system stabilizer and an exact feedback linearizing controller.