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Werner von Siemens was a responsible entrepreneur and far-sighted inventor who played a key role in fostering the development of the electrical industry. His construction of the pointer telegraph laid the basis for the Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske. Founded in 1847, the company was soon an international enterprise.
In 1866, Werner von Siemens discovered the dynamo-electric principle, probably his most significant achievement in the area of electrical engineering. This discovery helped establish the idea that electricity could be used as a power source. The company also gained worldwide recognition for its successful handling of technically complex, extremely high-risk projects, such as the planning and construction of the Indo-European telegraph line from London to Calcutta and the laying of a transatlantic cable between Europe and the U.S.
In recognition of his scientific achievements and their benefits to society, Werner von Siemens was ennobled by German Emperor Friedrich III in 1888.
Ideas alone have little worth. The value of an invention lies in its practical implementation […]
Werner von Siemens, 1865
Johann Georg Halske and Werner von Siemens met in early 1847. A few days later, Siemens commissioned the master mechanic to construct the pointer telegraph that he had designed. Convinced of the invention’s potential, Halske was willing to accept the risks involved in joining forces with Siemens to found a new company. Within a few decades, the Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske was a flourishing electrical engineering enterprise.
However, it was precisely the company’s entrepreneurial success and international expansion that caused the business partners to go their separate ways at the end of 1867. Alienated by a working world that was rapidly industrializing and mechanizing, Halske withdrew from the business at the age of just under 54. As a city councilor, he made an important contribution to public life in Berlin, taking a particular interest in the promotion of the applied arts.
Johann Georg Halske remained friends with Werner von Siemens until his death. “Halske” remained part of the company’s name until 1966, and it was only when today’s Siemens AG was founded that the name “Siemens & Halske” was dropped.
Halske was a clear-headed, cautious man of business, and I have him alone to thank for the good business results of the first years.
Werner von Siemens, 1892
Due to his activities in England, Werner von Siemens’ brother Wilhelm Siemens was instrumental in establishing the company on international markets. Seven years younger than Werner, Wilhelm became Siemens & Halske’s London agent in 1850. In 1858, the separate British subsidiary Siemens, Halske & Co. was founded under his leadership to manufacture and lay submarine cables. After successfully laying cables in the Mediterranean, the company achieved a breakthrough in the tough British telegraphy market.
Despite his numerous business activities, Wilhelm – who acquired British citizenship and changed his name to William – considered himself first and foremost a scientist and engineer. In England, his name is associated primarily with scientific research and his commitment to academic societies.
A few months before his death in November 1883, William Siemens was knighted by Queen Victoria of England.
We owe it mainly to [Carl’s] energy and ability that the Russian business now grew so rapidly and to such proportions.
Werner von Siemens, 1892
Carl von Siemens, another younger brother of company founder Werner von Siemens, made a name for himself mainly through his business activities in Russia. In 1853, he traveled to St. Petersburg to oversee the construction of the Russian telegraph network, for which Siemens & Halske had been granted a contract. He quickly proved himself to be a decisive, capable project manager. Under his leadership, the Russian business became a separate business in 1855 and established itself as an important pillar of support for the parent company in Berlin. In 1869, Carl moved to England, where he assisted his brother William’s business activities for more than a decade. In the early 1880s, he returned to St. Petersburg and injected new life into the company’s Russian business.
In the early 1890s, after Werner von Siemens had retired from active company management, Carl von Siemens became head of Siemens & Halske. In this capacity, he oversaw the company’s transformation into a joint stock company and the transfer of its leadership to a second entrepreneurial generation.
Carl von Siemens was ennobled by Tsar Nicholas II in 1895 for his services to Russia.
Master mechanic and telegraph engineer Sigmund Schuckert founded a small workshop for dynamometers and measuring equipment in 1873. Successful electrification projects enabled the company to quickly expand. Its production program included arc lights, switchgear, meters, lighting accessories, electric railways and later, above all, searchlights.
When Schuckert withdrew from the company in 1893 for health reasons, the transformation of the limited commercial partnership into the joint stock company Elektrizitäts-Aktiengesellschaft vormals Schuckert & Co. (EAG) became unavoidable due to growing capital requirements. In 1903, EAG merged with Siemens & Halske’s power engineering business to form Siemens-Schuckertwerke.
Like Werner von Siemens, Sigmund Schuckert was quick to introduce forward-looking social measures such as health insurance and pensions at his company.
University mechanic Erwin Moritz Reiniger opened a workshop in Erlangen, Germany, in 1877 to manufacture precision mechanical and electrical engineering equipment. In 1886, he founded the company Reiniger, Gebbert & Schall (RGS) with his former suppliers Max Julius Gebbert and Karl Schall. RGS produced medical measuring equipment up to the mid 1890s and then – after the discovery of X-rays in 1895 – primarily X-ray tubes.
Transformed into a joint stock company in 1907, RGS subsequently grew to become a major corporation. In 1925, Siemens & Halske acquired a majority stake in the Erlangen enterprise. Seven years later, Siemens & Halske’s medical engineering activities were bundled with those of RGS to form Siemens-Reiniger-Werke AG, which soon became the world’s largest specialist in the electro-medical market.
After leaving the company in 1895, Erwin Moritz Reiniger made a fresh start by acquiring an insolvent incandescent lamp factory in Munich, Germany. This venture proved unsuccessful, and, when the establishment of a factory for electrical precision instruments also failed, Reiniger retired.
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