Primary navigation:

QFINANCE Quick Links
QFINANCE Topics
QFINANCE Reference
Add the QFINANCE search widget to your website

Home > Operations Management Thinkers > Ernst Werner von Siemens

Operations Management Thinkers

Ernst Werner von Siemens

Founding father of electrical engineering

Timeline

1816
Born in Lenthe, Germany.
1841
Co-invented an electroplating process.
1842
Awarded his first patent, for a gold electroplating process.
1844
Worked in the artillery workshops in Berlin.
1845
Became a founding member of the Physical Society in Berlin.
1845
Patented a dial and printing telegraph.
1847
Cofounded the Siemens & Halske Telegraph and Construction Enterprise.
1849
Constructed the first electrical, long-distance telegraph line in Europe.
1851
Siemens & Halske built the first electric fire-alarm system for Berlin.
1861
Cofounded the German Progressive Party.
1862
Became a member of the Prussian Parliament.
1866
Constructed the first dynamo.
1875
Completed the laying of a transatlantic telegraph cable.
1877
Became a member of the State Patent Office.
1879
Demonstrated the first electric railway at the Berlin Industrial Exhibition.
1879
Cofounded the Electrotechnical Society in Berlin.
1880
Built the world’s first electric elevator.
1881
Built the first trolley bus system in Berlin.
1888
Awarded Prussian hereditary peerage.
1890
Retired.
1892
Died in Berlin, Germany.

Back to top

Life and Career

Ernst Werner von Siemens was a German electrical engineer, industrialist, and inventor, who played a crucial role in the development of telegraphy, and created a number of major inventions in the industry. After leaving school, he joined the army to train in engineering, and attended an engineering college in Berlin, augmenting his earnings through his inventions. While serving a short prison sentence at Magdeburg, for acting as second in a duel between fellow officers, he carried out chemistry experiments in his cell, and invented a gold and silver electroplating process, for which he was granted his first patent in 1842. At that time, he met the mechanical engineer, Johan Georg Halske, who became a close associate. Together, they founded the Siemens & Halske Telegraph Construction Company. They originally intended to make electrical apparatus, but followed this with many innovations that transformed the industry. By 1870, the company was employing more than 1,000 people in Germany and abroad.

Back to top

Key Thinking

  • Ernst Werner von Siemens was a leading pioneer of electrical telegraphy, inventing a number of devices, including the first electric dynamo.

  • The discovery of the dynamo electric principle enabled Siemens & Halske to develop and manufacture electrical lighting, and power-generating equipment.

  • He was a member of a commission in Berlin looking at the introduction of electric telegraphs to replace the optical ones previously used in Prussia; he also persuaded the commission to adopt underground telegraph lines.

  • He also laid the first telegraph line, built the first electric railway in Germany, and proposed the Siemens unit of electrical conductance.

  • Siemens also helped lay the first submarine mines, fired by electricity, in Kiel in 1848.

  • He received a German patent for an electromechanical moving-coil transducer, later adapted for the Bell System for use as a loudspeaker.

  • With his brother, Sir William Siemens, he originated and developed a widely used steelmaking process.

Back to top

In Perspective

  • The creation of the dynamo helped establish electricity as a driving force of industrial and economic change.

  • He investigated the electrostatic charges of telegraph conductors and their laws, which enabled him to test underground and submarine cables, and discover any faults in their insulation.

  • The construction and application of the first dynamometer was also essential to underwater cable laying, and he designed a press for covering wire with gutta-percha, a crucial development in the insulation of underground cables.

  • Under his direction, the firm of Siemens & Halske went on to lay cables across the Mediterranean, and from Europe to India; he also designed the first specialist cable-laying ship, which went on to lay five Atlantic cables in 10 years.

  • His discovery of the dynamo-electric principle solved the problem of DC batteries being necessary for the generation of continuous current and high voltage.

  • He won the first government contract to set up a telegraph line between Berlin and the National Assembly at Frankfurt, before supervising the laying of lines around Germany.

Back to top

Quotation

“Technology has acquired the means to generate electric currents of unlimited strength in an inexpensive and convenient way at any place where mechanical power is available. This fact will be of utmost importance in several of its branches.”

Back to top

Further reading on Ernst Werner von Siemens

Books:

  • Feldenkirchen, Wilfried. Werner von Siemens: Inventor and International Entrepreneur. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1994.
  • Siemens, Werner von, and W. C. Coupland. Personal Recollections of Werner von Siemens. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1893.
  • Weiher, Sigfrid von. Werner von Siemens, A Life in the Service of Science, Technology and Industry. München, Germany: Oldenbourg, 1966.

Back to top

Share this page

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Bookmark and Share