Werner von Siemens


Ernst Werner Siemens (
von The term ''von'' is used in German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechte ...
Siemens from 1888; ; ; 13 December 1816 – 6 December 1892) was a German electrical engineer,
inventor An invention is a unique or novel device, method, composition or process. The invention process is a process within an overall engineering Engineering is the use of scientific method, scientific principles to design and build machin ...

industrialist A business magnate is someone who has achieved great success and enormous wealth through the ownership of multiple lines of enterprise. The term characteristically refers to a wealthy entrepreneur or investor who controls, through personal ente ...
. Siemens's name has been adopted as the
unit of electrical conductance, the
siemens Siemens AG ( ) is a German multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Munich and the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe with branch offices abroad. The principal divisions of the corporation are ''Industry'', ' ...
. He founded the electrical and telecommunications conglomerate
Siemens Siemens AG ( ) is a German multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Munich and the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe with branch offices abroad. The principal divisions of the corporation are ''Industry'', ' ...



Early years

Ernst Werner Siemens was born in Lenthe, today part of
Gehrden Gehrden is a town in the Hanover (district), district of Hanover, in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated approximately southwest of Hanover. Notable people * Werner von Siemens (1816-1892), inventor, founder of electrical engineering and i ...
, near
Hannover Hanover (; german: Hannover ; nds, Hannober) is the capital and largest city of the German States of Germany, state of Lower Saxony. Its 534,049 (2020) inhabitants make it the List of cities in Germany by population, 13th-largest city in German ...

, in the
Kingdom of Hanover The Kingdom of Hanover (german: Königreich Hannover) was established in October 1814 by the Congress of Vienna, with the restoration of George III to his Hanoverian territories after the Napoleonic era. It succeeded the former Electorate of Han ...
in the
German Confederation The German Confederation (german: Deutscher Bund) was an association of 39 predominantly German-speaking sovereign states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as a replacement of the former Holy Roman Empire, which had b ...

German Confederation
, the fourth child (of fourteen) of a
tenant farmer A tenant farmer is one who resides on land owned by a landlord A landlord is the owner of a house, apartment, condominium, land, or real estate which is Renting, rented or leased to an individual or business, who is called a Leasehold estate, ...

tenant farmer
of the
Siemens family ''Siemens'' is the name of a family of German technology and telecommunications industrialists, founders and to the present day largest shareholders of Siemens AG. The family have a wealth of over €8 billion, making them the 5th richest family in ...
, an old family of
Goslar Goslar () is a historic town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. ...

, documented since 1384. He was a brother of
Carl Heinrich von Siemens Carl Heinrich von Siemens Carl Heinrich von Siemens (often just Carl von Siemens) (3 March 1829 in Menzendorf, Mecklenburg Mecklenburg (; nds, label=Mecklenburgisch dialect, Low German, Mękel(n)borg ) is a historical region in northern Germa ...

Carl Heinrich von Siemens
Carl Wilhelm Siemens Sir Carl Wilhelm Siemens (4 April 1823 – 19 November 1883), anglicised to Charles William Siemens, was a German-British electrical engineer and businessman. Biography Siemens was born in the village of Lenthe, today part of Gehrden Gehrden i ...
, sons of Christian Ferdinand Siemens (31 July 1787 – 16 January 1840) and wife Eleonore Deichmann (1792 – 8 July 1839).

Middle years

After finishing school, Siemens intended to study at the
Bauakademie 220px, "Bauakademie", Painting by Eduard Gaertner, 1868 The Bauakademie (''Building Academy'') in Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and populati ...

Berlin. 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, constructed 1845/25 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel when it was the United Artillery and Engineering School (1883) Image:Berlin Kriegsministerium Lageplan ZfB.jpg, 250px, Lageplan der Kriegsakademie mit dem Lehrgebäude an der Dorotheenstraße und d ...
's School of Artillery and Engineering, between the years 1835–1838, instead, where he received his officers training. Siemens was thought of as a good soldier, receiving various medals, and inventing electrically-charged
sea mine File:What a sea mine explosion looks like.webm, An explosion of a Naval mine A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left t ...

sea mine
s, which were used to combat a Danish blockade of
Kiel Kiel () is the capital and most populous city in the northern German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, ...

. Upon returning home from war, he chose to work on perfecting technologies that had already been established and eventually became known worldwide for his advances in various technologies. In 1843 he sold the rights to his first invention to Elkington of Birmingham. Siemens invented a
telegraph Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages where the sender uses symbolic codes, known to the recipient, rather than a physical exchange of an object bearing the message. Thus flag semaphore Flag semaphore (from the Greek σ ...
that used a needle to point to the right letter, instead of using
Morse code Morse code is a method used in telecommunication Telecommunication is the transmission of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines bot ...
. Based on this invention, he founded the company ''
Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske Siemens AG ( ) is a German multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, ...
'' on 1 October 1847, with the company opening a 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 Saint Petersburg ( rus, links=no, Санкт-Петербург, a=Ru-Sankt Peterburg Leningrad Petrograd Piter.ogg, r=Sankt-Peterburg, p=ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), ...

St. Petersburg
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the world, covering over , and encom ...

Carl von Siemens
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
Siemens & Halske AG Siemens & Halske Aktiengesellschaft, AG (or Siemens-Halske) was a German electrical engineering company that later became part of Siemens. It was founded on 12 October 1847 as ''Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske'' by Werner von Sieme ...
Siemens-Schuckertwerke Siemens-Schuckert (or Siemens-Schuckertwerke) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also G ...
and – since 1966 –
Siemens AG Siemens AG ( ) is a German multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Munich Munich ( ; german: München ; bar, Minga ) is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria. With a population of 1,558,395 inhabitants as of 3 ...
was later led by his brother Carl, his sons Arnold, Georg Wilhelm von Siemens, Wilhelm, and Carl Friedrich von Siemens, Carl Friedrich, his grandsons Hermann von Siemens, Hermann and Ernst von Siemens, 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 sufficient contributions to the development of electrical engineering that he became known as the founding father of the discipline in Germany. He built the world's first electric elevator in 1880. 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. Wente's adaptation was issued in 1929. In May 1881, Siemens & Halske inaugurated the world's first electric tram service, in the Gross-Lichterfelde Tramway, Berlin suburb of Groß-Lichterfelde. Siemens is also the father of the trolleybus, which he initially tried and tested on 29 April 1882, using his "Electromote, Elektromote".

Personal life

He was married twice: first in 1852 to Mathilde Drumann (died 1 July 1867), the daughter of the historian Wilhelm Drumann; second in 1869 to his relative Antonie Siemens (1840–1900). His children from first marriage were Arnold von Siemens and Georg Wilhelm von Siemens, and his children from second marriage were Hertha von Siemens (1870 – 5 January 1939), married in 1899 to Carl Dietrich Harries, and Carl Friedrich von Siemens. Siemens was an advocate of social democracy, and he hoped that industrial development would not be used in favour of capitalism, stating: He also rejected the claim that science leads to materialism, stating instead:


Werner von Siemens' portrait appeared on the 20 Reichsmark, RM banknote issued by the Reichsbank from 1929 until 1939. Printing ceased in 1939 but the note remained in circulation until the issue of the Deutsche Mark on 21 June 1948. In 1923, german botanist Ignatz Urban published ''Siemensia'', which is a monotypic genus of flowering plant from Cuba belonging to the family Rubiaceae and named in Werner von Siemens honour.

U.S. Patents

* — Electric railway (21 July 1885) * — Electric railway (20 April 1886) * — Electric meter (19 November 1889) * — Electric meter (20 May 1890) * — Electric railway (22 May 1894) * — Method of and apparatus for extracting gold from its ores (22 March 1898)

See also

* Friedrich von Hefner-Alteneck—one of Siemens's aides * Werner von Siemens Ring Award * German inventors and discoverers * History of electrical engineering * Timeline of the electric motor * Bow collector * Dielectric barrier discharge * Double-T armature * Dynamo * Electric bell * Electric locomotive * Electric generator * Electromote * Elevator * Experimental three-phase railcar * Microplasma * Phase plug * Siemens mercury unit * Trolleybus


Further reading

*''Shaping the Future. The Siemens Entrepreneurs 1847–2018.'' Ed. Siemens Historical Institute, Hamburg 2018, . *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. * Nathalie von Siemens, ''A Brimming Spirit. Werner von Siemens in Letters. A Modern Entrepreneurial History'', Murmann Publishers, 2016, .
Lifelines: Werner von Siemens, Vol. 5, ed. Siemens Historical Institute, Berlin 2016

External links

Short biography and bibliography
in the Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Siemens, Werner von Werner von Siemens, 1816 births 1892 deaths 19th-century German engineers German company founders German industrialists 19th-century German businesspeople German electrical engineers German railway mechanical engineers German untitled nobility Members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences Members of the Prussian House of Representatives People from Gehrden People from the Kingdom of Hanover Recipients of the Pour le Mérite (civil class) Engineers from Lower Saxony, Werner Siemens family, Werner Sustainable transport pioneers