Emile Berliner Biography


Birthday: May 20, 1851 (Taurus)

Born In: Hanover, Germany

Emile Berliner was a famous American inventor who is best known for his invention of gramophone. Born in Germany, this innovator fled his war torn country and settled in the United States. Despite dire financial circumstances, he was insistent in his quest to attain knowledge and worked odd jobs during the day while attending college at night. With his inquisitive bend of mind he was intrigued by the invention of Abraham Graham Bell and began studying the telephonic device. Even with the basic knowledge he possessed in physics, Berliner was able to design a transmitter that provided better amplification of the audio. The American Bell Telephone Company were impressed by his skills and offered him a position where he worked with acoustics. He continued with his inventions and came up with many innovative ideas which included a loom for spinning fabric that enabled mass production and a light-weight engine that could be used in helicopter. Utilising his experience with sound and acoustics, he came up with a tile that could be used to amplify the sound within concert halls. However his most notable invention was the gramophone which beckoned a new era in sound recording. He even founded the Berliner Gramophone Company to manufacture the device. Read on to know more about his life and works
Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In May

Also Known As: Emil Berliner

Died At Age: 78


Spouse/Ex-: Cora Adler

children: Henry Berliner, Oliver Berliner

Inventors American Men

Died on: August 3, 1929

place of death: Washington, D.C., United States

Notable Alumni: Cooper Union Institute

City: Hanover, Germany

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Founder/Co-Founder: Berliner Gramophone, Gramophone Company, Victor Talking Machine Company, Berliner Gram-o-phone Company of Canada, RCA Records, Deutsche Grammophon

discoveries/inventions: Disc Record Gramaphone, Phonograph

More Facts

education: Cooper Union Institute

awards: 1987 - Grammy Trustees Award
Elliott Cresson Medal
2000 - Juno Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award

Childhood & Early Life
Emile Berliner was born to parents Samuel and Sarah Fridman Berliner on May 20, 1851 in the Hanover city of Germany. The Berliners’ were a large family with eleven children and while Samuel was a teacher of religious texts Sarah specialised in music.
Emile completed his studies from schools in Hanover, Wolfenbuttel and Samsonschule, in the year 1865.
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After completing his training to become a merchant, he started work as an accountant. Though he was passionate about inventing new objects and solving problems, his financial conditions prohibited him from pursuing his dreams.
He left the war torn country and landed in Washington D.C., United States in 1870. In the new city he worked a clerical job at ‘Gotthelf, Behrend and Co’, which was partially owned by his friend’s father.
In 1873, he moved to the New York City and worked odd jobs during the day to make ends meet. At night,Emile attended the ‘Cooper Union Institute’ where he studied subjects like physics.
During the period 1873-76, he worked as a travelling salesman for a clothing retailer in the city of Milwaukee for a while and then returned to New York to work as a cleaning person in the office of renowned chemist Constantin Fahlberg. It was this exposure to the world of scientific research that fuelled his desire to take up a career in this field.
In 1876, Berliner shifted back to Washington and re-joined ‘Gotthelf, Behrend and Co’ as a clerk. It was during the same time that Alexander Graham Bell was credited with the invention of telephone. The instrument piqued the interest of Berliner and he set about studying the device.
He focussed on improving the quality of audio transmitted through the mouth piece of the telephone. Working diligently he designed and developed a high quality transmitter which allowed amplification of the transmitted audio. The device, which he named as a “loose contact” transmitter, was one of the first microphones ever developed in the world.
Impressed by the simplicity and ingenuity of the transmitter, the ‘American Bell Telephone Company’ offered Berliner a position of a research assistant in the company and even sought the patent for his invention.
In 1877, Emile joined the ABT Co. and moved to Boston from New York. In the company he was involved with the telephone industry and made significant contributions in this regard; meanwhile gaining the reputation as an accomplished electrician.
In 1881, he was granted American citizenship and in the same year he exchanged nuptial vows with Cora Adler.
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In 1883, he came up with an innovative floor covering, which he patented under the name “Parquet Carpet”.
In 1884, the industrious inventor left his job at ABT Co. to pursue his dream of inventing new objects. He moved from Boston to Washington with his wife and the couple settled in the city.
In Washington he continued to work on the telephonic device invented by Graham Bell and managed to introduce several improvements. He then sold his patents for his inventions to the ‘Bell Telephone Company’.
Starting in 1886 he embarked on the study of methods to record sound and thus came into the being the world’s first ever “Gramophone”. The device was a huge improvement over the existing methods and revolutionized the world of sound recording.
Initially manufactured as a miniature toy device that was hand-driven in the European continent, Emile came up with the ‘Berliner Gramophone Company’ in 1895, which marketed the full–sized replica of the toy model and seven-inch record for sound recording.
He then collaborated with Eldridge R Johnson who was an engineer by profession to develop a motor driven model of the gramophone. The duo developed a motor that comprised of a wind up spring which was used to rotate the disc at a steady pace.
After being a victim of fraudulent practices, when Berliner was banned from selling his own products in the US, his manufacturer Eldridge established the ‘Victor Talking Machine Company’ in 1901 and Emile was a co-founder of the organisation.
In the mid-1900s, the ‘US Berliner Gramophone Company’ shut down its operations and Emile relocated to Canada. He started the ‘Berliner Gramophone Company of Canada’ in 1904 and five years later restructured his business to merge the Canadian wing with the parent company, ‘Berliner Gramophone Co.’
Sometime during 1906-07, Berliner got involved with the study of flying machines and set about inventing a light weight IC engine which could be used in the helicopters.
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He obtained the patent for the model of a helicopter which could lift two people in 1909. It was in the same year that he founded the ‘Gyro Motor Company’ which manufactured the rotary engine developed by him.
Throughout the next two decades till 1926, he was devoted to the study of technologies related to vertical flight and perfected his model of IC engine in collaboration with R.S. Moore.
Continuing his work on acoustics, the renowned inventor came up with a method of creating tiles that could provide better resonance. The tiles made up of porous cement were patented under the name “Acoustic tiles”, in 1926.
The ‘Gyro Motor Company’ entered a merger with the ‘Maryland Aviation Commission’ in 1929 and thus came into being the ‘Berliner Joyce Aircraft’.
The eminent inventor also developed a prototype of weaving machine which could be used for mass production of fabric.
A staunch supporter of public health and hygiene, Emile has even penned several books on the topic. ‘The Milk Question and Mortality Among Children Here and in Germany: An Observation’, ‘Some Neglected Essentials in the Fight against Consumption’, ‘A Study Towards the Solution of Industrial Problems in the New Zionist Commonwealth’,‘Muddy Jim and other rhymes’, are some of his written works.
Major Works
Berliner is credited with many significant inventions but his invaluable contribution was the invention of gramophone which heralded a new era in the world of sound recording. Another of his invention that revolutionized the aviation industry was the light weight IC engine which could successfully power the rotors of a helicopter.
Awards & Achievements
The science museum of ‘Franklin Institute’ in Philadelphia presented him the ‘John Scott Medal’ in 1897.
The renowned inventor was honoured by the Franklin Institute’s highest award the ‘Elliott Cresson Medal’, in the year 1913.
Emile Berliner was awarded the Franklin medal in 1929; which was the science award presented by the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia.
Personal Life & Legacy
Emile was married to Cora Adler in the year 1881, the same year he was officially declared an American national.Their son Henry Berliner was the founder of the ‘Berliner Aircraft Company’.
The eminent inventor breathed his last on August 3, 1929 in Washington DC. His death was caused by a heart attack and he was interred at the ‘Rock Creek Cemetry’.

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