Werner from Siemens

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Werner Siemens, 1885 Werner from Siemens
Werner von Siemens
(portrait of Giacomo Brogi)

Ernst Werner Siemens , 1888 Siemens (* 13. December 1816 in Lenthe , Kingdom of Hanover , now Gehrden , Lower Saxony , † 6. December 1892 in Charlottenburg ) was a German inventor and industrialist . He discovered the dynamo-electric principle , also known as the electrodynamic principle, and is considered the founder of modern electrical engineering , especially electrical energy engineering .

Together with Johann Georg Halske , Werner Siemens founded the Telegraphen Bau-Anstalt von Siemens & Halske in Berlin on October 12, 1847 , from which today's Siemens AG emerged . Within a few decades, the company developed from a small workshop that, in addition to telegraphs, mainly manufactured railway bells, wire insulation and water meters, to one of the world's largest electrical and technology groups.

Four of his brothers were also entrepreneurs and inventors, mostly in the electricity sector, see navigation bar .


Childhood and school days

Siemens came from the old Goslar city ​​family Siemens (mentioned in a document in 1384, with the Siemenshaus in Goslar as its headquarters) and was born in 1816 as the fourth of fourteen children of the landlord Christian Ferdinand Siemens (1787–1840) and his wife Eleonore Henriette Deichmann (1792–1839) . The house where he was born, the tenant house on the Obergut in Lenthe , now contains a permanent exhibition that uses central documents and exhibits to trace the most important stages in the life of the inventor and entrepreneur. After moving from Lenthe to Mecklenburg in 1823 , where his father took over the Menzendorf domain , his parents were denied economic success.

Siemens was initially tutored by his grandmother and father, attended the community school in Schönberg for one year from 1828 to 1829 and received lessons from a private tutor for three years . Finally he attended the Katharineum in Lübeck for three years from 1832 to 1834 . There he was particularly outstanding in mathematics, which is why he was taught in this subject in a higher class. He left the grammar school prematurely in 1834 without a formal qualification.

Earlier career

Siemens wanted to take up a practical, scientific career, but the parents' economic situation did not allow them to study. On the advice of his geodesy teacher Ferdinand von Bültzingslöwen , he applied to the engineering corps of the Prussian army in Berlin. The chief of the engineering corps, the general of the infantry and later Minister of War Gustav von Rauch , advised him to apply instead to the artillery , whose avantageurs attended the same school as the engineers, because of the long waiting times due to the large number of applicants . He was accepted as one of four out of fourteen candidates for the entrance examination in Magdeburg .

Werner Siemens as second lieutenant of the Prussian artillery, 1842

In the autumn of 1835 he was assigned to the Berlin Artillery and Engineering School as an officer candidate for three years . Here he received extensive training in the natural sciences - such as mathematics , physics , chemistry , geometry and ballistics - and also attended lectures at Berlin University. He finished this training in 1838 as an artillery lieutenant . One of his teachers at the artillery school was the physicist Gustav Magnus , to whom he later demonstrated his dynamo . Magnus recognized the importance and made sure that the work was published, first in Berlin and then in London.

After the death of his mother in July 1839 and his father in January 1840, Werner, the eldest son, had to take over the father's position for his younger siblings.

Lieutenant Werner Siemens was on duty in Magdeburg in third Artillery Brigade and then in the garrison Wittenberg , where he for participating as Sekundant in a duel to five years imprisonment was condemned. He was able to set up his cell in the Magdeburg Citadel as a test laboratory, where he developed a process for electrical electroplating (especially silvering and gold plating) as a further development of the copper electroplating developed shortly before by Moritz Hermann von Jacobi .

Berlin time

After a pardon, Siemens was transferred to the artillery workshop in Berlin in 1842. In the Schleswig-Holstein War in 1848 he supported the Kiel vigilante in the defense of the port of Kiel against Danish naval forces by occupying the Friedrichsort fortress . He also developed functioning remote-controlled sea ​​mines that were laid out in front of the port of Kiel and prevented the Danish Navy from bombarding the city from close by.

He stayed in the military until June 1849 and tried to earn additional money with inventions, whereby his work was initially directed towards practical and quickly usable things. So he developed a new regulator for steam engines, a press for the production of artificial stone and a printing process. The idea of ​​a run-fly machine, on which he corresponded with his brother Wilhelm, was not tackled.

Werner von Siemens' tomb in the south-west cemetery of Stahnsdorf in Berlin ( grave location )

As an aspiring entrepreneur, he married his distant niece Mathilde Drumann (1824–1865), daughter of the university professor Wilhelm Drumann and his cousin Sophie Mehliß, in Königsberg on October 1, 1852 . The sons Arnold and Wilhelm and the daughters Anna Zanders and Käthe Pietschker (1861–1949) come from this marriage . Mathilde died on July 1, 1865 of a long-standing lung disease.

On July 13, 1869, Werner Siemens married his distant niece Antonie Siemens (1840–1900) from Hohenheim near Stuttgart, the daughter of Carl Georg Siemens , who was later raised to the personal nobility of Württemberg , and Ottilie Denzel (1812–1900). 1882). From this marriage the son Carl Friedrich and the daughter Hertha (1870-1939; married to Carl Dietrich Harries ) emerged.

On February 17, 1887, Siemens acquired the approximately 600 hectare Biesdorf estate with a large manor house ; In 1889 he passed it on to his son Wilhelm . In his summer vacation home in Harzburg , Siemens wrote down his memoirs from 1889 to 1892, which were published shortly before his death.

On December 6, 1892, Werner von Siemens died of pneumonia in Berlin. He was buried in the old Luisenfriedhof in Charlottenburg and later reburied in the family grave of the Siemens family in the south- west cemetery in Stahnsdorf, southwest of Berlin .


Electrical engineering

Machine telegraph from Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd, London

In 1842 Werner Siemens succeeded in providing a teaspoon made of nickel silver with a coating of either silver or gold using direct current from batteries . He got a patent for this process, which he sold to a jeweler . He sent the proceeds from this business to his then 18-year-old brother Wilhelm to England, which at that time was much more advanced in technology and industrialization than the German Confederation, which was split up into many states .

At the end of 1846 he developed the electric pointer telegraph with self-interruption. The following year, he invented a process to provide wires with a seamless coating of gutta-percha . This process forms the basis for the manufacture of insulated lines and electrical cables to this day .

In 1857 Siemens developed the ozone tube that uses electrically generated ozone to purify drinking water .

Also in 1857 he formulated the countercurrent principle .

With the development of the first electric generator (1866) based on the scientifically founded dynamo-electric principle , Werner Siemens is one of the pioneers of heavy current technology . Electrical energy , which could now be produced on a large scale, made it possible to use the flexible electric motor , which, together with the internal combustion engines, replaced the steam engine and initiated the second industrial revolution .

The dynamo-electric principle had already been discovered by the Dane Søren Hjorth and also by the Hungarian Ányos Jedlik . However, Siemens was the first to recognize the scope of the discovery and to predict the triumph of electrical energy.

The entrepreneur

Electric locomotive at the Berlin trade fair in 1879
Elektromote by Werner Siemens, Berlin 1882, the first trolleybus in the world

On October 12, 1847, he founded the Telegraphen Bau-Anstalt von Siemens & Halske in Berlin with the mechanic Johann Georg Halske - still in his main profession as an officer . The necessary capital to set up the company came from Siemens' cousin Johann Georg Siemens , a wealthy judiciary and father of the later co-founder of Deutsche Bank , Georg Siemens . He invested more than 6,000 thalers as start-up capital in return for a 20 percent profit share over six years.

The connection between Siemens and Halske was probably a rare stroke of luck in the history of technology , because they complemented each other in an almost ideal way. Siemens had the knowledge, the ideas and liked to experiment, Halske constructed the many little things that were necessary to turn ideas into practically usable devices.

In 1848 the young company received a politically important contract: the telegraph line from Berlin to Frankfurt am Main , because that is where the German National Assembly met . The line was built in the winter of 1848/49 with devices and cables from Siemens & Halske. One hour after the vote, a week before the Imperial Deputation arrived in Berlin , he knew that the National Assembly wanted to propose the dignity of Emperor to King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia .

Siemens & Halske became known in one fell swoop and further orders for the construction of telegraph connections in Prussia and the German states followed. Siemens tried early to gain a foothold in markets outside Germany, especially since he soon got into a dispute with the Prussian telegraph administration and received no more orders from them for many years. He entrusted his brother Wilhelm with the management of a first foreign branch in London . He also tried to get orders in Russia . A first success was in 1852 the order to set up telegraph connections from Warsaw to St. Petersburg and from St. Petersburg to Moscow . In 1853 Siemens sent his brother Carl to St. Petersburg to oversee construction. Carl quickly proved himself to be a capable entrepreneur and further orders for the Russian telegraph network followed. In 1855, the Russian business was converted into a branch under Carl's management and established itself as an important pillar of Siemens & Halske. Orders also came from England, where their own cable factory was built.

There were also setbacks, for example in 1864 the laying of a submarine cable through the Mediterranean Sea from Cartagena (Spain) to Oran (now Algeria, then a French colony) failed , which caused the company heavy losses. Halske, who hated risky ventures, asked to part with the loss-making London branch. Siemens did not want to abandon its brother, so it spun off the London branch from Siemens & Halske and founded Siemens Brothers & Co in London in 1865 with Wilhelm and Carl . But the differences of opinion between Halske and the Siemens brothers persisted and at the end of 1867 after twenty years led to Halske's withdrawal from the company. After Halske's departure, the brothers Wilhelm and Carl became their brother Werner's only partners: Siemens & Halske became the Siemens brothers' family business. Werner and Carl had also bought a copper mine in Kedabeg in the Russian government of Elisabethpol (now Azerbaijan) in 1864 at the suggestion of their brother Walter, who was involved in the construction of telegraph lines in the Caucasus , which - overcoming some difficulties - as a "private business" separate from the company “Was operated under the direction of the brothers Walter and Otto.

The Faraday , cable lay by Siemens Brothers & Co. 1874

In 1870, after three years of construction, the Indo-European telegraph line went into operation from London via Tehran to Calcutta with a length of over 11,000 kilometers. Other milestones in the company's development were a.

Political and social engagement

Siemens supported the German Revolution in 1848/49 . In 1860 he became a member of the liberal German National Association , was a co-founder of the German Progressive Party (DFP) in 1861 and was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives in 1863 , to which he belonged until 1866. In the Prussian constitutional conflict, he voted against the indemnity bill by Otto von Bismarck .

Siemens thought about the fate of its employees at an early stage. The normal remuneration did not seem sufficient to him: "The money would burn like a red-hot iron in my hand if I did not give the loyal helpers the expected share". In addition to altruistic motives, tactical motivations for employees to participate in the company's success, as he wrote in a letter to his brother Carl: "It would not be wise of us to let them go empty-handed at the moment of major new ventures."

As early as the mid-1850s, senior employees had contracts that guaranteed them performance-related bonuses , while lower-ranking employees received bonuses that were not contractually agreed . From the mid-1860s, Siemens & Halske paid a so-called inventory bonus to all workers and employees, an early form of performance incentive and a forerunner of today's profit-sharing scheme. These were all measures to bind qualified employees to Siemens & Halske and to form a permanent workforce.

In 1872 Siemens founded the pension, widows and orphans' fund, in which Halske, who was no longer a member of the company, also took a stake. Another socio-political measure was the introduction of a daily working time of nine hours in 1873 , which in the six-day week at that time corresponded to a weekly working time of 54 hours. 72 hours per week were still common at the time.

After the founding of the Empire in 1871 , there was a controversial discussion about uniform patent protection in the German Empire . Patents in the Kingdom of Prussia were granted for a maximum of three years at the discretion of the civil servants and had to be applied for individually in each state of the German Customs Union . As early as 1864, the Prussian Minister of Commerce and subsequently numerous chambers of commerce even demanded the abolition of these patents because they were "harmful to general prosperity". This had prompted Werner Siemens to send an expert opinion to the Berlin Chamber of Commerce in 1863, which set out "the necessity and usefulness of a patent law to enhance industry" as well as the main features of such a law. As a result, the abolition was abandoned. In order to advance the matter further, he set up a patent protection association which, under his chairmanship, worked out the draft for a German patent law. But only when he personally addressed Chancellor v. Bismarck turned, this initiated a legislative process. Siemens had pointed out that German products were previously considered “cheap and bad” all over the world and that German inventors took their patents abroad and had them manufactured there. That is why a patent law also serves to strengthen German industry and to give it a better reputation in the world. On May 25, 1877, the German Patent Act came into force. The draft was accepted by the Reichstag only slightly modified. Its main features are still valid today.

With Heinrich von Stephan he founded the Electrotechnical Association in 1879 , on the occasion of whose name he coined the word electrical engineering . As its first president, he campaigned for the establishment of chairs in electrical engineering at technical universities throughout the German Empire.

In 1879 Werner Siemens bought the second Archeopteryx fossil ever found from the Solnhofen pharmacist Ernst Häberlein for 20,000 marks, thus preventing the second fossil from being sold abroad. He left the Urvogel on permanent loan to the University of Berlin , so that the fossil could be purchased from Siemens two years later in two installments at the original price.

In 1885, Siemens enabled the establishment of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt , which had been planned by scientists for a long time , by acquiring and donating an area for this in addition to the Charlottenburg Polytechnic. The Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt still maintains one of its locations in the Werner von Siemens building there and the Hermann von Helmholtz building named after the founding president .


In 1860 Werner Siemens was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Berlin . At the world exhibition in Paris in 1867 , where Siemens exhibited its generator based on the dynamo-electric principle , it was awarded the French Legion of Honor. In recognition of his achievements, Werner Siemens was accepted as a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1874 , where he regularly gave and published lectures on general scientific topics. In the same year, the Association of German Engineers (VDI) honored him for his services with honorary membership. He was a member of the elders 'college of the Berlin merchants' union , but he refused an appointment to the council of commerce , because he “saw and felt himself more as a scholar and technician than as a merchant”. In 1880 he was appointed (as a non-permanent member of the patent office) to the secret government council and on January 18, 1886 he was awarded the order Pour le Mérite for art and science. He was also a member of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory . In 1887 he was elected a member of the Leopoldina .

In recognition of its services to science and society, Siemens was established by Emperor Friedrich III. Elevated to the nobility on May 5, 1888 ( ennoblement ). The SI unit of electrical conductance is named after him. During his lifetime, however, a certain electrical resistance was referred to as "a Siemens" or "Siemens unit" (SE), namely the resistance of a mercury column of certain dimensions at 0 ° C; Siemens had developed this resistance standard. 1 SE = 0.944 ohms . Also a plant genus Siemensia Urb. from the family of the redness plants (Rubiaceae) is named after him.

Memorial stone in his place of birth Lenthe near Hanover
Family grave site of the von Siemens family in the
south-west cemetery
Grave of Werner von Siemens

Monuments and busts

  • 1892: Marble bust of Adolf von Hildebrand , Siemensvilla in Berlin-Lankwitz , also made in bronze by the Noack art foundry in Berlin
  • 1893: Bust of H. Schenkam, Institute for Chemistry and Electrical Engineering at the Technical University of Stuttgart
  • 1893: Plaster bust (model) by Ludwig Brunow for the commemoration in the Philharmonie Berlin (lost)
  • 1893: Bronze bust of Ludwig Brunow for the Chicago World's Fair (preserved)
  • 1896: Head sculpture on the vault of the Oberbaum Bridge in Berlin by Johannes Boese
  • 1896: bust on the facade of the old Urania in Berlin, later in Lankwitz (lost)
  • 1898: Bronze monument on the Potsdamer Brücke , Berlin, by Julius Moser (melted down)
  • 1898: Memorial stone in his place of birth Lenthe
  • 1899: Bronze relief in the Siemens archive of Adolf von Hildebrand
  • 1899: Marble relief for a memorial in the park of the Siemens Villa Lichterfelde (destroyed)
  • 1899: Bronze monument in front of the main building of the TU Berlin in Charlottenburg by Wilhelm Wandschneider (restored in 2006 and repositioned on Strasse des 17. Juni )
  • 1904: Commemorative plaque of the Berlin Electrotechnical Association with the medallions of the two founders Siemens and Stephan
  • 1906: Marble relief in the hall of honor of the Deutsches Museum in Munich by Adolf von Hildebrand
  • Relief in the Berlin-Klosterstrasse underground station by A. Vogel
  • 1914: Relief on the house of the Association of German Engineers in Berlin by Hugo Lederer
  • 1914: Marble relief on the house of the mechanical engineering schools in Magdeburg after Adolf von Hildebrand
  • 1916: Gold relief on the case of the ring of the Werner von Siemens Ring Foundation
  • 1922: Marble relief on the Siemens Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf grave after Adolf von Hildebrand
  • 1929: Marble bust (copy) in the honor room of the electrical engineering in the Deutsches Museum Munich by Josef Wackerle

(Information from: Siemens Communications No. 145, October 12, 1933)

Postage stamps



  • “I have certainly strived for profit and fortune, but essentially not to enjoy them, than to gain the means to carry out other plans and undertakings, and to gain recognition for the correctness of my actions and the usefulness of my work through success receive. So I raved about founding a global business à la Fugger from my youth, which would not only give me, but also my descendants, power and prestige in the world and the means to raise my siblings and close relatives to higher regions of life ... I see in business only secondarily a monetary value object, it is more to me a kingdom which I founded and which I think would like to leave offspring undiminished to create more in him. " (letter to his brother Carl, December 25, 1887)
  • “It had become clear to me early on that a satisfactory development of the steadily growing company could only be brought about if a joyful, independent cooperation of all employees to promote their interests could be achieved. In order to achieve this, it seemed to me necessary that all members of the company share in the profits according to their performance. " (Memoirs, p. 283)
  • "The earned money would burn like red-hot iron in my hand if I did not give loyal helpers the expected share." (To Carl, June 16, 1868)
  • “It is quite difficult to follow the simple rule of finding faults in yourself first - that indispensable telegraphic basic rule - but in time you can get to where it is if you inculcate it at every opportunity and instinctively say Capital crimes frowned upon! " (Werner Siemens to his brother Wilhelm. Berlin, December 4, 1866)


  • Brief description of the experiences made on the Prussian telegraph lines with underground lines. Julius Springer, 1851.
  • The electric telegraph. Lüderitz, Berlin 1866 ( digitized and full text in the German text archive )
  • Positive proposals for a patent law. Bittkow, Berlin 1869.
  • Contributions to the theory of the laying and investigation of submarine telegraph lines. Academy, Berlin 1881.
  • Collected treatises and lectures. Springer, Berlin 1881.
  • Scientific and technical work. Volume I, Julius Springer, Berlin 1882.
  • About the admissibility of the assumption of an electric solar potential and its significance for the explanation of terrestrial phenomena. Leipzig 1883.
  • Contributions to the theory of magnetism. Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin, Berlin 1884.
  • About the preservation of power in the earth's ocean of air. Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin, Berlin 1886.
  • The age of science. Schumacher, Berlin 1886.
  • About the earth's general wind system. Academy of Sciences, Berlin 1890.
  • Scientific and technical work. Volume II, Julius Springer, Berlin 1889.
  • Life memories. Julius Springer. 1892. (New edition: Piper, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-492-04621-5 ; New edition: FinanzBuch Verlag, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-95972-001-4 .)
  • From a rich life. Werner von Siemens to his family and friends. German publishing house, Stuttgart 1954.


Web links

Commons : Werner von Siemens  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. One of his teachers was the then Captain Meno Burg .
  2. ^ Negotiations of the Royal Academy of Sciences on January 17, 1867.
  3. ^ CW Siemens: On the Conversion of Dynamical into Electrical Force without the Aid of Permanent Magnetism . In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London . tape 15 , 1867, p. 367-369 , doi : 10.1098 / rspl.1866.0082 .
  4. See, for example, the brief description on the Internet portal www.kiel-friedrichsort.de
  5. ^ Gerd Stolz: The Schleswig-Holstein Navy 1848-1852. Boyens, Heide in Holstein 1978, ISBN 3-8042-0188-1 , p. 18 ff.
  6. ^ Siemens-Pointer Telegraph Telecommunications Collection at the Institute for Telecommunications, accessed on September 15, 2012.
  7. The year: 1847. Siemens Historical Institute, accessed June 5, 2019 .
  8. private website for the Indoline Line
  9. Adventure on the High Seas - The Transatlantic Cable. Siemens Historical Institute, accessed June 5, 2019 .
  10. ↑ Aiming high - Werner von Siemens presents the world's first electric passenger elevator. Siemens Historical Institute, accessed June 5, 2019 .
  11. A detour to success - the first electric tram. Siemens Historical Institute, accessed June 5, 2019 .
  12. Think and act responsibly. Siemens Historical Institute, accessed June 5, 2019 .
  13. About whale men, stereo belts and Ikon cameras. Chemnitz University of Technology, September 20, 1997, accessed on July 11, 2015 .
  14. ^ Paul Chambers: The Archeopteryx Saga. Rogner & Bernhard, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-8077-0139-7 , p. 174.
  15. Personalities in the VDI . In: VDI news . October 21, 2016, ISSN  0042-1758 , p. 39 .
  16. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names - Extended Edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .
  17. Quoted from Wilfried Feldenkirchen : Werner von Siemens. Inventor and international entrepreneur. Piper, Munich 1996, p. 46.
  18. Quoted from Wilfried Feldenkirchen: Werner von Siemens. Inventor and international entrepreneur. Piper, Munich 1996, p. 199.
  19. Quoted from Natalie von Siemens: The seething spirit. Werner von Siemens in letters. A modern founding story . Murmann Verlag, 2016, p. 92 f.