Erich Gutenberg

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Memorial to Gutenberg in his hometown of Herford

Erich Gutenberg (born December 13, 1897 in Herford , † May 22, 1984 in Cologne ) was a German economist . He is considered the founder of modern German business administration (BWL) after the Second World War .


Gutenberg was the son of a factory owner, attended the humanistic Friedrichs-Gymnasium in Herford and graduated from high school in spring 1918 in a military hospital during the First World War .

Gutenberg initially studied natural sciences , especially physics and chemistry, at the Technical University in Hanover from January 1919 , but dropped out again in June 1919. The reason was the father's wish that he should join his parents' company. The company produced threshing machines and other products for agriculture. When the First World War broke out , the Niebaum & Gutenberg company had 400 employees. The business environment shaped the young Erich Gutenberg. After the death of the older brother, who had taken over the company, after lengthy negotiations with partner Niebaum an agreement was reached, according to which Erich Gutenberg's entry into the company was binding on January 1, 1926.

Gutenberg was able to return to university as a student after a few months. He actually wanted to continue his natural science studies, but there was no need for a manager with an engineering degree in his parents' company. In June 1919, Gutenberg decided to take up a degree in economics at the University of Würzburg . Shortly afterwards he moved to the University of Halle / Saale . He was studying there at the same time as his brother. In December 1921 he received his doctorate in Halle an der Saale on the subject of Thuen's Isolated State as Fiction .

From January 1922, he initially worked as an employee in the Starke & Hoffmann machine factory in Hirschberg (Lower Silesia) in order to gain professional experience for his parents' company. But Gutenberg's intentions to join his parents' company became obsolete when it went bankrupt in October 1924. In November 1924 he instead took a position as a research assistant and lecturer at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster , which he held until 1930. In the meantime, Gutenberg studied business administration from April 1925 to March 1926 at the University of Frankfurt am Main with a degree in business administration . Gutenberg completed his habilitation in business administration at the University of Münster in May 1928. The subject of the habilitation was The company as an object of business theory . Reviewers were Fritz Schmidt and Wilhelm Kalveram (both from Frankfurt am Main).

In April 1929 Gutenberg was employed by the Deutsche Zentralgenossenschaftsbank in Berlin . In April 1932 he switched to Deutsche Wirtschaftsprüfungs-AG , where he became head of the Dortmund branch and in January 1933 passed his auditor exam. He was then appointed to the board of the Deutsche Wirtschaftsprüfungs-AG in April 1933. Gutenberg always viewed the activity as a chartered accountant only as a temporary task. The return to university teaching was planned from the start.

In 1937 Gutenberg was given a teaching position at the University of Rostock . After he had joined the NSDAP and the Nazi Lecturer Association , he was appointed associate professor at the Bergakademie in Clausthal in 1938. In 1939 he also became a member of the SA and was drafted for military service in August 1939, from which he resigned in the summer of 1943. Erich Gutenberg was a professor in Clausthal from 1938, where he stayed until 1940. From 1941 to 1947 he held the chair for business administration at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena . During these Jena years he took part in resistance activities of the Neubauer-Poser group . As the successor to Fritz Schmidt, he was appointed to the chair for business administration at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main in 1948, where he remained until 1951.

Then Gutenberg was appointed to the chair for general business administration and special business administration in industrial management at the University of Cologne in 1951 as the successor to Eugen Schmalenbach . Here he wrote the 3-volume work Basics of Business Administration, which is fundamental for German business administration, beginning with the volume Die Produktion (1951), which was followed by 2 more volumes until 1969. The magnum opus Gutenberg is called in the student jargon "Gutenberg Bible". In this complete work, most influential in Germany, he no longer looked at the company in its various sub-areas, but in the entirety of its production , sales and finance functions . He differentiated between economic system-independent and economic system-dependent influencing variables of production. The focus was on the productivity relationship between input and output - the production function. When the third volume of this work appeared in 1969, Gutenberg was already retired . At the age of 69 he ended his university career in Cologne - after 15 years of activity - in 1966.

Between 1954 and 1966 Gutenberg was a member of the scientific advisory board of the Federal Ministry of Economics and between 1964 and 1978 sole editor of the Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft .


Gutenberg's services to business administration have been recognized by numerous honorary doctorates.

In 1973 a business school in the town of Bünde in his home district of Herford was named Erich Gutenberg School in his honor . The facility is now called the Erich Gutenberg Vocational College . There is also an Erich Gutenberg vocational college in Cologne-Buchheim . His hometown Herford named the building of the former Kopka furniture factory, in which the city ​​library is located, after him (see illustration). At the suggestion of the school management, the alumni association of his Friedrichs-Gymnasium honors a high school graduate every year with the Gutenberg Medal for outstanding academic achievements and special social commitment.

Erich Gutenberg was awarded the Great Federal Cross of Merit in 1968 . The University of Cologne honored him posthumously with an academic funeral service on December 11, 1985.


In his most influential three-volume work "Fundamentals of Business Administration" Gutenberg developed a new system of business administration. The work, which is easy to read even for laypeople, no longer breaks down the company into its sub-areas, but assesses it in the entirety of its operational functions . The focus is on the productivity relationship between input and output , the production function . The starting point of his modeling was the microeconomic theory .

Furthermore, Gutenberg developed a classification of production factors in business administration that is still current today . His law of equalization of planning states that the focus for all sub-plans should be directed to a bottleneck, i.e. a sub-area that restricts other sub-areas in their actions. Since sales are usually the bottleneck in today's companies, according to this definition, planning should concentrate on the customer and therefore be marketing-oriented . As early as 1970, the Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft, which he published, reported : “With the three volumes of the Fundamentals, we have a work that is unique in its coherence and originality for modern business studies. For years it has not only been regarded as a standard work in Germany, but has also gained international recognition and distribution through translations into various languages. In view of the diversification and deepening of the individual business management problems, one can ask oneself whether in the future a scholar will again succeed in giving an in many respects original presentation of the theoretical foundations of the entire discipline. "

Erich Gutenberg's work is part of the Erich-Gutenberg-Arbeitsgemeinschaft Köln e. V. and in particular by his academic student and later son-in-law Horst Albach .

Erich Gutenberg is one of the most cited German-speaking business economists .

Fonts (selection)

  • The company as an object of business theory . Berlin 1929 (unchanged reprint 1998 under ISBN 3-409-12218-4 )
  • Basics of Business Administration. Volume 1: The Production . Springer-Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg 1951, 1983 (24th edition; ISBN 3-540-05694-7 )
  • Basics of Business Administration. Volume 2: The paragraph . Springer-Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg 1955, 1984 (17th edition; ISBN 3-540-04082-X )
  • Basics of Business Administration. Volume 3: The Finances . Springer-Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg 1969, 1980 (8th edition; ISBN 3-540-09904-2 )

See also

Web links

Commons : Erich Gutenberg  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945 . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Second updated edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 211
  2. Register . In: Der Spiegel . No. 23 , 1984, pp. 204 ( online ).
  3. Basics of business administration . ex libris