Alexander Behm

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Alexander Karl Friedrich Franz Behm (born November 11, 1880 in Sternberg ( Mecklenburg ), † January 22, 1952 in Kiel ) was a German physicist .


Memorial plaque on Alexander Behm's former home in Kiel (Hardenbergstrasse 31)

Behm came to Parchim from Rehna in 1884 with his parents and two younger brothers . From 1888 to 1896 he attended the Friedrich-Franz-Gymnasium (Parchim) . In 1896 the family moved to Hadersleben (then the German Empire , now Denmark). His physics teacher Conrad Dunker recognized Behm's talent and encouraged him. He showed little interest in the other subjects. After secondary school, he began an internship with a gunsmith . From 1902 to 1904 Behm studied electrical engineering and physics at the Technical University in Karlsruhe . From 1903 to the end of 1904 he worked as Otto Lehmann 's second assistant .

Alexander Behm and Johanna Glamann, daughter of a Mecklenburg landowner, married on February 14, 1905. The couple met in Hadersleben in the house of the doctor Magaard.


In Karlsruhe his work in the field of acoustics was noticed by Otto Lehmann. For several years as an assistant at a physical institute, he developed a sound strength meter (sonometer), which was the basis for the development of the echo sounder . At the end of 1904, Behm took over the management of a technical research laboratory he had founded and worked for an industrial association in Mödling in Lower Austria. In addition to thermal studies, he carried out studies on room acoustics and sound insulation .

After the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, Behm tried to develop an iceberg localization system. The icebergs should be localized by means of reflected sound waves. His first patent application for a sonometer was dated this year. Also in 1912 he moved to Kiel, where he was able to continue working on his invention at Hermann Anschütz-Kaempfe's company .

In 1915 he bought the Otter gunboat and converted it into a laboratory ship. The chances of success of his attempts in the port of Kiel and the Heikendorfer Bay were viewed by experts as low because of the shallow water and the muddy subsoil. To study the propagation of sound in water, he developed the photographic recording of the propagation of sound on the basis of experiments in an eight-liter goldfish aquarium. In the end, sound reflections did not prove useful for locating icebergs, but the sea floor could be recorded by reflecting the sound waves. Although there were parallel developments in other countries independently of each other during the First World War, Behm can be described as the German inventor of the echo sounder .

Sound propagation with the echo sounder (schematic)

On July 22, 1913, Behm received Reichs patent no. 282009, which referred to an unsuitable method for measuring the depth of the sea on the basis of the sound and echo intensity. However, the breakthrough came with his echo sounder developments in the following years based on the echo time and his short-time meter, with which the smallest time units could be measured in a technically simple and on-board manner. He received patents for this in 1916 and 1920. For the commercial exploitation of this invention he founded the Behm Echolot Society in Kiel in 1920 . The use of the echo sounder in aviation was proven in several Zeppelin test drives - u. a. with the ZR 3 - successfully tested. The Zeppelin shipyard ruled: "There is no doubt that of all methods for determining altitude, the acoustic one is the one that will meet all requirements." For this procedure for determining altitude on aircraft , Behm was granted Reich Patent No. 442974 on June 12, 1921. Another of his 110 patents is the so-called Behmfliege, an artificial fishing lure .



  • Friedrich KlemmBehm, Alexander Karl Friedrich Franz. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , p. 7 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Gerhard Beuck: Who was Dr. Alexander Behm? In: Treene-Spiegel, November 2006 / No. 368
  • The depth at the push of a button . In: Hydrographische Nachrichten , Issue 93, pp. 26-29, Deutsche Hydrographische Gesellschaft eV (Hrsg.), Rostock 2012, ISSN  1866-9204
  • Thomas Kalweit: Alexander Behm - the inventor . In: Fisch & Fang , January 2010, pp. 58–62
  • Klaus-Joachim Lorenzen-Schmidt , Ortwin Pelc (Ed.): The new Schleswig-Holstein Lexicon. Wachholtz, Neumünster 2006, Lemma Behm, Alexander.
  • Michael Meyer: Alexander Behm - the inventor of the echo sounder . In: Mecklenburg personalities and their contributions to scientific and technical progress in history. Issue 13 of the series Rostocker Wissenschaftshistorische Manuskripte , ed. from the History Section of the Wilhelm Pieck University Rostock, Rostock 1986, pp. 48–53
  • Jörg Schimmler: Alexander Behm (1880–1952). Inventor of the echo sounder. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2013, ISBN 978-3-7322-3110-2 .
  • Jörg Schimmler: Water depth at the push of a button. Alexander Behm's invention of the echo sounder in Kiel. In: Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Kieler Stadtgeschichte, Volume 89, Issue 3, Kiel 2017, pp. 141–149
  • Werner Schneider: Echo times - biography about Alexander Behm, inventor of the echo sounder. Publisher: Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2018
  • Werner Schneider: Alexander Behm and 100 years of echo sounder patents. In: Hydrographische Nachrichten, HN 96, October 2013, pp. 11-14
  • Pütt 2005. Series of publications by the Heimatbund eV Parchim, 2005, p. 32 f.
  • GH Ziehm: Kiel - An early center of water noise . German Hydrographic Journal, Supplementary Issue Series B, No. 29, 1988, ISSN  0070-4172

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Jörg Schimmler: Water depth at the push of a button. Alexander Behm's invention of the echo sounder in Kiel. In: Communications from the Society for Kiel City History, Volume 89, Issue 3, Kiel 2017, p. 149
  2. Jörg Schimmler: Alexander Behm (1880-1952). Inventor of the echo sounder. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2013, p. 17
  3. Klaus-Joachim Lorenzen-Schmidt, Ortwin Pelc (Ed.): The new Schleswig-Holstein Lexicon. Wachholtz, Neumünster 2006, Lemma Behm, Alexander
  4. ^ Franz Neumann: The origin of the echo sounder and its inventor. In: Polytechnisches Journal . 340, 1925, pp. 44-45.
  5. ↑ For patents from 1913, 1916 and 1920 as pdf, see
  6. Patent specification as pdf see