Emil Berliner

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Emil Berliner

Emil Berliner (in the USA he called himself Emile Berliner ; * May 20, 1851 in Hanover ; † August 3, 1929 in Washington, DC ) is considered the inventor of the record and the gramophone . He also received patents on other inventions. In 1881 he received US citizenship .


Emil's great-grandfather, Jacob Abraham Joseph († 1811), his wife Dina Friedberg († 1840), his mother and a sister had settled in the then independent Hanoverian Calenberger Neustadt in the early 1770s . In the Jewish community he was called Jokew (Jacob) Berlin , according to his place of birth . In 1776 he acquired a letter of protection . In their house at Lange Strasse 27, the family offered a kosher lunch menu. Their children were Bella Betty (* 1778) and Moses (1786-1854).

During the freedom of trade due to the French occupation, Moses was able to open a textile shop on Bergstrasse. In 1811 he married Friederike Enoch from Celle (1785–1838; the daughter of Wolf Samuel Enoch (1747–1797) and Ester Berliner), with whom he had six children. In 1833 he moved his business to Lange Straße 33.

Moses' eldest son, Samuel Berliner (1813–1872), also ran a textile business. In 1846 he and his wife Sally Friedmann (1826–1903) acquired civil rights. Her children were: Hermann (* 1848), Jacob (1849–1918), Adolph (* 1850), Emil (* 1851), Manfred (1853–1931), Franzisca (* 1854; married Friedberg), Rebecka (* 1855 ), Moritz (* 1856), Johanne (* 1857, died young), Joseph (1858–1938), Rahel (* 1864) and Else (* 1869). Four of Moses' sons stayed in Hanover.

Emil grew up with his siblings in modest circumstances. He was the uncle of Cora , Siegfried and Bernhard Berliner . The son Henry Berliner was an American airplane and helicopter pioneer.


Factory in Hanover , Kniestraße

From 1861 to 1865 Emil Berliner attended the Samson School in Wolfenbüttel . He then did a commercial apprenticeship and had to help support the family by working in a printing company and later in a tie shop.

As a young man he emigrated to the USA in 1870 to avoid being drafted into the Prussian military. He accompanied a friend of his father's, Nathan Gotthelf, to Washington and worked for three years in his haberdashery Gotthelf, Behrend and Co. He then moved to New York, where he kept his head above water by doing odd jobs, ultimately in 1875 as a bottle washer in Constantin Fahlberg's laboratory . At night he studied at the Cooper Institute (now Cooper Union ). Then he set up a makeshift laboratory in his apartment and made experiments with electrical devices. The first thing he managed to do was to construct a working microphone for Alexander Graham Bell's telephone set . In 1877 he was able to sell his invention to the Bell Telephone Company for US $ 50,000  . This money initially made him economically independent so that he could set up a professional laboratory. He later lived alternately in Great Britain , Canada and Germany .

Between 1881 and 1883, Emil Berliner visited Hanover. There he and his brother Joseph Berliner founded the first European company for the production of telephone parts, the J. Berliner Telephongesellschaft. In 1887 he applied for a patent for a disc-shaped sound carrier in which a groove was carved from the outside to the inside in a spiral shape and in side writing, thus preserving the vibrations of the recording membrane analogously. The patent also included a recording and playback device, the original gramophone . That was the invention of the record , as Berliner called the record in his mother tongue.

The great advantage of the disc over the cylindrical sound carrier invented and patented by Thomas Alva Edison in 1877 was its reproducibility. Edison's cylinders had to be recorded individually and were therefore unaffordable for the average consumer.A method invented after 1902 to produce the phonograph rollers in a casting process in larger numbers and thus cheaper, came too late and was always inferior to the pressing of the shellac record. This made it possible to produce records cheaply in large quantities.

One-sided plate by Berliners Gramophone & Typewriter Company , 1905, Camille Saint-Saëns, "Samsone e Dalila (Coro delle Filistee)"
Report in the Phonographische Zeitschrift dated November 8, 1906 about a visit by Berliners to the editorial office. The photo shows Berliners together with the publisher Georg Rothgießer and his wife. Berliner stayed in Berlin for two days on a trip to Europe.

Berliner's plate was initially made of hard rubber. The records are played on one side, have a diameter of 12.5 cm and are made of hard rubber. Later on the records are made from a much cheaper mixture of cotton flakes , slate powder , soot (hence the black color) and shellac (hence the fragility). During the hot pressing, the shellac pressed itself against the surface and thus sealed the grooves. This enabled the industrial production of large quantities, which he took up in 1889 and gradually perfected until around 1910, e.g. B. sticking paper labels and writing on both sides.

Emil Berliner made recordings by artists in newly built recording studios and sold these records. To this end, he founded the United States Gramophone Company in the USA in 1893. His first production manager was the piano accompanist at the time, Fred Gaisberg . In 1895 he founded the Berlin Gramophone Company in Philadelphia with other investors . This went in 1904, again to expand the capital base, in the Victor Talking Machine Co., whose director was Frank Seaman. This company was taken over by RCA in 1929. The record label was called RCA Victor. In 1897 he founded the UK Gramophone Company in Great Britain. In 1898, recording specialists Fred Gaisberg and Joe Sanders established the first European record recording studio in London. When it came to a dispute with Frank Seaman, who was responsible for the distribution of the records, Emile Berliner founded a record production company, the Deutsche Grammophon-Gesellschaft, with his brother Joseph in Hanover in the same year.

Shellac records with 78 revolutions per minute were made virtually unchanged from their basic construction for more than 60 years, from approx. 1895 to approx. 1958, in the GDR and Eastern Europe until 1961 and in parts of Asia until 1968, and then from vinyl records , " 45s " singles and" 33s " LPs , replaced. But also with the vinyl records - apart from a much closer distance between the neighboring grooves (filler font), which the plastic material allowed and thus also made stereo recordings possible - Emil Berliner's basic principle was retained.

More inventions

Berlin Helicopter No. 5 from 1924 by Henry Berliner; Emil Berliner was involved in the construction. The aircraft is now owned by the Smithsonian Institution .

Emil Berliner made a number of other inventions. He received numerous patents in the United States, for example on September 4, 1883 on a parquet floor designed according to his idea .

Between 1907 and 1926 Berliner worked together with John Newton Williams and later also with his son Henry Berliner on helicopters , which he called gyrocopter - misleading from today's perspective . By this we mean the technically different gyroplanes today . With a test flight on July 11, 1908, he proved that his flying machine could lift twice its own weight. Then he used rotary engines for the first time in aviation, which he had further developed for this purpose together with the specialist Adams-Farwell . This was followed by the larger aeromobile and work on concepts with a coaxial rotor and a coaxial tandem rotor . The latter, built in 1910, provided important foundations for the US twin-rotor helicopters of the 1940s. In 1924 the Berliners built an experimental helicopter that remained the most powerful helicopter in the United States until Sikorsky's VS-300 helicopter in 1939. The model still existed in 2018 and is in the College Park Aviation Museum. As a spin-off of these developments, Emil Berliner founded a company for the construction of rotary motors for aviation, the Gyro Motor Company in Washington, DC in 1909 , which produced until around 1926.


His brother Joseph Berliner , who ran the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft (a branch of the Gramophone Company founded in London ) in Hanover and who lived in the Villa Simon , produced the first mass-produced sound carriers in 1898 . He also played a key role in the spread of the telephone in Germany. In 1914 Emil Berliner donated the Sarah Berliner Research Fellowship in honor of his mother. This award supports women who have a degree in chemistry, physics or biology. The American Association of University Women has awarded the scholarship since 1928 .

The Emil Berliner Studios in Langenhagen were the in-house recording studio of the classic label Deutsche Grammophon (DG) until May 2008 ; then DG sold it to EBS Productions GmbH & Co. KG as part of a management buy-out . Since then, EBS (Emil Berliner Studios) has been an independent production studio for acoustic music (classical, jazz, crossover and film music productions). In spring 2010, EBS moved to the center of Berlin.

Emil Berliner was the first person in the world to be honored twice with a doodle by the Google search engine . Once on his 160th and again on his 167th birthday. The reason for the second award is the new Emil Berliner Archive at Google Arts & Culture , which was created in cooperation with the Museum for Communication Nuremberg .

See also



Web links

Commons : Emil Berliner  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Andreas Steen: Between entertainment and revolution - gramophones, records and the beginnings of the music industry in Shanghai; 1878-1937 . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 978-3-447-05355-6 , pp. 34 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  2. Silke Lindemann: Jewish life in Celle . P. 303
  3. Descendants of Abraham Joseph Berliner. (PDF; 134 kB) Accessed August 30, 2013 .
  4. ^ Curt Riess: Knaurs world history of the record . Droemersche Verlagsanstalt, Zurich 1966, p. 27 ff.
  5. Hard rubber plates from Emil Berliner's Gramophon, approx. 1890-1893. In: Digital collections of the Eichstätt-Ingolstadt University Library. Retrieved August 19, 2020 .
  6. Chronicle. Emil Berliner Studios; accessed December 13, 2014.
  7. US patent number 284,268 for Emil Berliner , accessed April 20
  8. Berlin Helicopter, Model 1924 National Air and Space Museum.
  9. http://www.collegeparkaviationmuseum.com/1601/Berliners
  10. Berlin Helicopter, Model 1924 National Air and Space Museum
  11. Bulletin of the National Research Council in Google Book Search, Issues 69–72. P. 5
  12. ^ Emil Berliner Studios: History
  13. ^ Emil Berliner: Google doodle for the 167th birthday of the German inventor of the record - GWB . In: GoogleWatchBlog . May 20, 2018 ( googlewatchblog.de [accessed May 20, 2018]).
  14. Music from the can. Emil Berliner and the gramophone. Google Arts & Culture; accessed May 20, 2018.