Posts Tagged ‘Werner von Siemens’

Werner von Siemens – self-made man

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Ernst Werner Siemens, German industrialist, researcher and inventor, was a self-made man. Having been born in 1816 as the fourth of 14 children in a tenant farmer family precluded a pursuit of extensive higher education. But this disadvantage did not keep Siemens from turning his dreams into reality. Today’s Siemens AG is the largest engineering- and electronics company in Europe. The company offers products and services relative to construction, energy, lighting, transportation, logistics and medicine. The firm’s corporate headquarters is located in Munich. Siemens AG has operations in close to 190 countries and owns approximately 285 production and manufacturing facilities. Werner von Siemens passed away in 1892.

Werner von Siemens in 1872

Werner von Siemens in 1872

Werner von Siemens – industrialist and inventor

To become an engineer, Siemens needed an education. To that end he joined the Prussian army and soon had acquired sufficient knowledge to greatly improve the army’s communication system by constructing a point telegraph that was far superior to anything the army had used before. Even before Siemens left the army at the age of 31, he had formed a partnership with master mechanic Johann Georg Halske. In 1848, one year before Siemens left the army, the Siemens & Halske Telegraph Construction Company built the first long-distance telegraph line in Europe. It covered 310 miles from Berlin to Frankfurt am Main. Thereafter, business opportunities multiplied. Two years later, he had his younger brother, Carl Wilhelm Siemens, open a branch office in London, England. In 1855, another brother, Carl Heinrich Siemens, opened a company branch in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1867, the company completed the Indo-European telegraph line from Calcutta to London. Because of his many achievements, German Emperor Friedrich III raised Werner Siemens to nobility in 1888. He was henceforth known as Werner von Siemens.

Siemens – researcher

Werner von Siemens also pursued intensive scientific research. In 1866 he made what was probably his most important contribution to electrical engineering when he reported the discovery of the dynamo-electric principle in a report to the Berlin Academy of Sciences In 1879 the first electric railway was presented at the Berlin Trade Fair and the first electric streetlights were installed in Berlin’s Kaisergalerie. In 1880 the first electric elevator was built in Mannheim, and in 1881 the world’s first electric streetcar went into service in Berlin-Lichterfelde.

Siemens – social reformer

Werner von Siemens was also far ahead of his time with numerous social initiatives. In 1866, he first issued an inventory premium. It was the forerunner of today’s profit sharing plans. Six years later, von Siemens introduced a company pension plan, which included a widows and orphans fund for surviving dependents. When asked why he invested so much in his employees, he replied that it reinforced employees’ loyalty to the company and, therefore, should be considered a “healthy self interest.”


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.


Made in Germany

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Did you know that the familiar “Made in Germany” trademark is not a German invention? It is a British idea. On 23 August 1887 – 126 years ago today – The United Kingdom passed a law, called the Merchandise Marks Act. This law required the labeling of all products of foreign origin. At a time when British industry dominated world market, its government wanted to reduce foreign competition. The new law required each foreign nation to stamp products shipped to Britain with a “MADE IN…” seal. The Merchandise Marks Act was particularly aimed at Germany because it was suspected that the Germans were copying British products. The new regulation intended to make foreign products more obvious, stigmatize them, and hopefully encourage British buyers to “buy British.”

Following World War II, "Made in Germany" became synonymous with quality, reliability, and longevity

“Made in Germany” trademark, first applied in 1887

At first the plan worked because, even before the new law had gone into effect, German products had had the reputation of being cheap and inferior. But the German Industrialist, Werner von Siemens, came to realize that German industry had to improve the quality of its products if it wanted to compete in world markets. Soon, German knifes, watches, beer, and pianos were of as good a quality as their British counterparts. Sometimes, they were even better while still remaining less expensive. But the real triumph of the “Made in Germany” trademark did not occur until after Word War I. By then, Germany had begun to offer custom-tailored, quality products rather than mass-produced items. The method worked well for Germany. Its “Made in Germany” trademark ultimately developed into a sign of quality. It stood for quality, reliability, and longevity.

Now the question – is there still a need for a trademark in the globalized markets of today? Airbus parts, for instance, are manufactured in four different countries. Individual components are installed worldwide. Which “Made in…” trademark should be stamped on an Airbus do you think? Your thoughts?


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.