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Werner von Siemens

Werner von Siemens
Born (1816-12-13)13 December 1816
Lenthe, Kingdom of Hanover
Died 6 December 1892(1892-12-06) (aged 75)
Berlin, German Empire
Fields Inventor

Ernst Werner Siemens (von Siemens since 1888; German: ; 13 December 1816 – 6 December 1892) was a German inventor and industrialist. Siemens’s name has been adopted as the SI unit of electrical conductance, the siemens. He was also the founder of the electrical and telecommunications company Siemens.


  • Biography 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Middle years 1.2
    • Later years 1.3
    • Personal life 1.4
  • Patents 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Early years

Werner Siemens was born in Lenthe, today part of Gehrden, near Hannover, in the Kingdom of Hanover in the German Confederation, the fourth child (of fourteen) of a tenant farmer. He is a brother of Carl Heinrich von Siemens and Carl Wilhelm Siemens, sons of Christian Ferdinand Siemens (31 July 1787 - 16 January 1840) and wife Eleonore Deichmann (1792 - 8 July 1839).

Middle years

After finishing school, Werner Siemens intended to study at the Bauakademie Berlin.[1] However, since his family was highly indebted and thus could not afford to pay the tuition fees, he chose to join the Prussian Military Academy's School of Artillery and Engineering, between the years 1835-1838, instead, where he received his officers training.[2] Siemens was thought of as a good soldier, receiving various medals, and inventing electrically-charged sea mines, which were used to combat a Danish blockade of Kiel. Upon returning home from war, he put his mind to other uses. He is known world-wide for his advances in various technologies, and chose to work on perfecting technologies that had already been established. In 1843 he sold the rights to his first invention to Elkington of Birmingham.[3] Siemens invented a telegraph that used a needle to point to the right letter, instead of using Morse code. Based on this invention, he founded the company Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske on 1 October 1847, with the company taking occupation of its workshop on 12 October.

The company was internationalised soon after its founding. One brother of Werner represented him in England (Sir William Siemens) and another in St.Petersburg, Russia (Carl von Siemens), each earning recognition. Following his industrial career, he was ennobled in 1888, becoming Werner von Siemens. He retired from his company in 1890 and died in 1892 in Berlin.

The company, reorganized as Wilhelm, and Carl Friedrich, his grandsons Hermann and Ernst and his great-grandson Peter von Siemens. Siemens AG is one of the largest electrotechnological firms in the world. The von Siemens family still owns 6% of the company shares (as of 2013) and holds a seat on the supervisory board, being the largest shareholder.

Later years

Apart from the pointer telegraph Siemens made several contributions to the development of electrical engineering and is therefore known as the founding father of the discipline in Germany. He built the world's first electric elevator in 1880.[4] His company produced the tubes with which Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen investigated x-rays. He claimed invention of the dynamo although others invented it earlier. On 14 December 1877 he received German patent No. 2355 for an electromechanical "dynamic" or moving-coil transducer, which was adapted by A. L. Thuras and E. C. Wente for the Bell System in the late 1920s for use as a loudspeaker.[5] Wente's adaptation was issued US patent 1,707,545 in 1929. Siemens is also the father of the trolleybus which he initially tried and tested with his "Elektromote" on 29 April 1882.

Personal life

He was married twice, first in 1852 to Mathilde Duman (died 1 July 1867) and second in 1869 to his relative Antonie Siemens (1840–1900). Children from first marriage were Carl Dietrich Harries, and Carl Friedrich von Siemens.

Siemens was an advocator of Social Democracy,[6] and he hoped that industrial development would not be used in favour of capitalism, stating:

A number of great factories in the hands of rich capitalists, in which "slaves of work" drag out their miserable existence, is not, therefore, the goal of the development of the age of natural science, but a return to individual labour, or where the nature of things demands it, the carrying on of common workshops by unions of workmen, who will receive a sound basis only through the general extension of knowledge and civilization, and through the possibility of obtaining cheaper capital

He also rejected the claim that science lead to materialism, stating instead:

Equally unfounded is the complaint that the study of science and the technical application of the forces of nature gives to mankind a thoroughly material direction, makes them proud of their knowledge and power, and alienates ideal endeavours. The deeper we penetrate into the harmonious action of natural forces regulated by eternal unalterable laws, and yet so thickly veiled from our complete comprehension, the more we feel on the contrary moved to humble modesty, the smaller appears to us the extent of our knowledge, the more active is our endeavour to draw more from the inexhaustible fountain of knowledge, and understanding, and the higher rises our admiration of the endless wisdom which ordains and penetrates the whole creation.
—Siemens, (1887). The Scientific Age.[8][9][10]


  • U.S. Patent 322,859Electric railway (21 July 1885)
  • U.S. Patent 340,462Electric railway (20 April 1886)
  • U.S. Patent 415,577Electric meter (19 November 1889)
  • U.S. Patent 428,290 — Electric meter (20 May 1890)
  • U.S. Patent 520,274Electric railway (22 May 1894)
  • U.S. Patent 601,068 — Method of and apparatus for extracting gold from its ores (22 March 1898)

See also


  1. ^ Werner von Siemens. "Inventor and entrepreneur : recollections of Werner von Siemens". London, England, 1966.
  2. ^ Werner von Siemens (1816-1892) - Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum, Paderborn
  3. ^ Schwartz & McGuinness Einstein for Beginners Icon Books 1992
  4. ^ The History of the Elevator - Elisha Otis
  5. ^ Ed. M. D. Fagen, "A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: The Early Years", Bell Laboratories, 1975, p. 183.
  6. ^ Werner von Siemens (1893). Personal Recollections of Werner Von Siemens. Asher. p. 373
  7. ^ D. Appleton., (1887). The Popular Science Monthly, Volume 30.
  8. ^ Bonnier Corporation. Popular Science Apr 1887,Vol. 30, No. 46. ISSN 0161-7370. pp. 814-820
  9. ^ Werner von Siemens (1895). Scientific & technical papers of Werner von Siemens. J. Murray. p. 518
  10. ^ A similar account is given in Siemens, Werner von (1893). Personal Recollections of Werner Von Siemens. London. Asher. p. 373:: I also tried in my lecture to show that the study of the physical sciences in its further progress and general diffusion would not brutalize men and divert them from ideal aspirations, but on the contrary would lead them to humble admiration of the incomprehensible wisdom pervading the whole creation and must therefore ennoble and improve them.

Further reading

  • Werner von Siemens, Lebenserinnerungen, Berlin, 1892 (reprinted as Mein Leben, Zeulenroda, 1939).
  • Werner von Siemens, Scientific & Technical Papers of Werner von Siemens. Vol. 1: Scientific Papers and Addresses, London, 1892; Vol. 2: Technical Papers, London, 1895.
  • Sigfrid von Weiher, Werner von Siemens, A Life in the Service of Science, Technology and Industry, Göttingen, 1975.
  • Wilfried Feldenkirchen, Werner von Siemens, Inventor and International Entrepreneur. Columbus, Ohio, 1994.
  • Wilfried Feldenkirchen / Eberhard Posner, The Siemens Entrepreneurs, Continuity and Change, 1847–2005, Ten Portraits, Munich, 2005.

External links

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