Emil Mechau

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Emil Mechau (born April 19, 1882 in Seesen , † June 28, 1945 in Koßdorf ) was a German designer and cinema pioneer. Among other things, he invented the Mechau projector named after him .

Live and act

Mechau's father worked in a sugar refinery in Seesen. When this was closed, the family moved to Brottewitz near Mühlberg / Elbe .

Emil Mechau completed an apprenticeship as a precision mechanic at Maibuhr / Reiss in the district town of Bad Liebenwerda and then went to Carl Zeiss in Jena , where he worked in the astro test workshop. There he met his future friend Oskar Barnack . Since Mechau was supported by Henry Siedentopf in his optical experiments , he was also familiar with his discussions with Oskar Messter on the subject of flicker-free projection and then dealt intensively with this problem.

Since Zeiss did not support Mechau's project as he had hoped, Mechau went to Ernst Leitz GmbH in Wetzlar in 1908 , where the designers had greater freedom. As a research assistant, he built his new film projector in 1910, which he personally tested and further developed in the local film theater. For the first time, the audience present was able to see silent films without flickering or jerking in a quality that was previously unknown. In addition, the new type of projector prevented the film from tearing and thus the most common cause of fire. At the same time, Mechau worked on other groundbreaking inventions, not just in the field of cinematography. When the Leitz company was looking for a foreman for microscope research shortly after joining, Mechau successfully negotiated between Ernst Leitz II and Barnack. He would later develop the world-famous 35mm Leica (Leitz Camera).

The Mechau projector quickly became famous throughout the film world, which prompted Ernst Leitz to let Mechau build an independent film projector factory in Rastatt . 1923 was the year of the inauguration of the most modern movie theater of its time, the Schauburg Film Palace in Münster , where the Mechau projector model 3 was the technical attraction. As the Westdeutsche Filmzeitung reported in Düsseldorf , rarely before have so many of the highest political dignitaries and other celebrities attended a private event. Henny Porten , star of the feature film Geyer-Wally shown , was one of the many premiere guests from the film industry.

Emil Mechau, the inventor of the cinema projector, was also invited, and his device was highly praised as a masterpiece of the German optical and precision engineering industry.

In 1931, Emil Mechau was awarded its highest award, the Oskar Messter Medal , at a special ceremony in Berlin by the Deutsche Kinotechnische Gesellschaft (DKG, today FKTG ) as the fourth prize winner - in recognition of his years of tireless efforts as an inventor in the field of Film technology. This was the culmination of Mechau's work. Despite the tough competition between the best engineers and optics scientists of his time, he was the only one who was successful with his projector in realizing a continuous movement of the film by means of optical compensation.

The increasing financial outlay due to the further development of the new sound film prompted Ernst Leitz to sell the film projector factory in Rastatt, including all patents, to AEG in Berlin. Mechau also joined AEG in 1929. Apart from his advances in precision cinema projectors and other things, Mechau also developed his first 180-line lens ring scanner for the newly emerging television at the Berlin radio exhibition in 1934.

At the beginning of 1935, Mechau switched to the AEG subsidiary Telefunken to continue his work in this new area. In the same year he succeeded in developing a light point scanner for which he received the Grand Prix in the category of innovations and developments at the Paris World Exhibition in 1937 (Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne). Using this light point scanner, a video telephone service was made possible for the first time , in which one could not only hear, but also see one's distant conversation partner. This idea of video conferencing has only recently been implemented on a large scale. Mechau also developed the Olympic television camera with interchangeable lenses. With the 2.2 meter long Olympic cannon with its 5/1600 mm Leitz lens, which had a front diameter of 450 mm, which quickly became famous , it was possible for the first time to broadcast live television broadcasts of sporting events from the stadium. Although already completed, his next 375-line light point scanner and his new television camera could no longer be used for the 1940 Olympic Games in Helsinki because of the outbreak of World War II .

Just a few weeks after the end of the war, Emil Mechau died in an accident at the age of 63 when he was asked by a Russian soldier to defuse a hand grenade .


A street in Seesen is named after him.

On March 9, 1931, Emil Mechau was honored with the award of the Oskar Messter Medal for his projector with optical compensation at a ceremony held by the Deutsche Kinotechnische Gesellschaft in Berlin.

At the Paris World Exhibition in 1937 , Emil Mechau received the Grand Prix in the class of developments and inventions for his Telefunken Linsenkranz scanner.

At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Emil Mechau's Ikonoskop television camera with interchangeable lenses was used publicly for the first time to broadcast the competitions in open air.


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