Karl Ferdinand Braun Biography

(German Electrical Engineer Who Made Significant Contribution to the Development of Radio and Television Technology)

Birthday: June 6, 1850 (Gemini)

Born In: Fulda, Germany

Karl Ferdinand Braun was a German physicist and inventor who received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909. He shared the prize with another inventor and scientist Guglielmo Marconi. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in the development of the technologies used in television and radio. He became interested in experimenting with wireless telegraphy at an early age. The distance that could be covered by the wireless technology developed by Marconi was about 15 kilometers only. The antenna was connected directly to the power circuit of the transmitter. Braun developed an antenna that could increase the distance by many more kilometers over which wireless transmissions could be made. He is also famous for the creation of the Cathode Ray Tube or CRT used in the design of TV screens and computer monitors later. He designed ways to control the cathode rays by changing the voltage to obtain a definite pattern on the fluorescent screen which had not been possible earlier. The oscilloscope was also his invention which is used in electrical and electronic laboratories as an instrument for measuring different electrical parameters. He also invented the first ‘cat’s whisker diode’ which led to the invention of crystal receivers for radios.
Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In June

Died At Age: 67


Spouse/Ex-: Amelie Buhler

father: Johan Konrad Braun

mother: Franziska Gohring Braun

Inventors Physicists

Died on: April 20, 1918

place of death: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Notable Alumni: University Of Marburg, University Of Berlin

Grouping of People: Nobel Laureates in Physics

discoveries/inventions: Cathode Ray Tube, Cat's Whisker Diode

More Facts

education: University Of Berlin, University Of Marburg

awards: Nobel Prize in Physics (1909)

Childhood & Early Life
Karl Ferdinand Braun was born on June 6, 1850 in Fulda, Germany to Johan Konrad Braun and Franziska Gohring Braun. He was the fourth child of his parents.
He did his initial education at the local grammar school in Fulda.
After completing high school he studied chemistry and mathematics at the ‘University of Marburg’.
He completed his PhD in physics in 1872 from the ‘University of Berlin’.
Thereafter he worked as a graduate assistant at the Wurzburg University.
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In 1874 Karl Ferdinand Braun discovered that point-contact semiconductors were able to rectify electrical currents from alternating to direct current.
In 1874 he became a member of the teaching faculty at the ‘St. Thomas Gymnasium’ in Leipzig.
He was appointed an ‘Extraordinary Professor of Theoretical Physics’ at the Marburg University in 1877.
He joined the Strasbourg University also as an ‘Extraordinary Professor of Physics’ in 1880.
He joined the ‘Polytechnic School’ in Karlsruhe in 1883 to teach physics.
He was invited to build a new ‘Physics Institute’ by the ‘University of Tubingen’ in 1885.
In 1895 he returned to become a professor of physics at the ‘University of Strasbourg’ and also became the director of the ‘Physical Institute’ at the university.
He built the first Cathode Ray Tube or CRT in 1897 and also the CRT oscilloscope. For almost one century CRTs were used in TV sets and computer monitors until they were replaced by flat-screen LCD screens, LED screens and finally Plasma screens in the 21st century.
He became a member of a group of scientists who were working on the development of wireless and radio technology in 1897.
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He became fully dedicated to solving the problems in wireless telegraphy in 1898 and continued to work on the issue for the next few years.
In 1898 he discovered the ‘cat’s whisker diode’ or crystal rectifier that could transform alternating current to direct current. This helped to increase the distance over which wireless devices could work.
He applied for many patents on his designs related to wireless telegraphy in 1899.
He had started experimenting with wireless telegraphy when he was with the Strasbourg University and was able to connect to the city of Mutzig 42 kilometers away very soon by wireless telegraphy. On September 24, 1900 he was able to set up a wireless telegraphy connection between Cuxhaven in the North Sea coast and the island of Heligoland about 62 kilometers away. Wireless communications between Cuxhaven and light vessels plying on the Elbe River also became possible during this time with his help.
He was instrumental in the execution of the first trans-Atlantic wireless transmission in 1901 which led to the setting up of the wireless telegraphy industry.
In 1902 he was successful in receiving messages with the help of the ‘inclined beam antenna’.
The ‘phased array antenna’ was discovered by him in 1905. This was a combination of three antennas arranged one behind the other for transmitting a directional signal. The radar and the smart antennas were developed later with this technology.
Before the start of the First World War, he was called to the US in 1914 to stand as witness in favor of the wireless station operated by the ‘Atlantic Communication Company’ in Sayville, New York against a law suit filed by the ‘American Marconi Corporation’ which was owned by the British Government.
He could not go back to Germany as the First World War had broken out by then and the US government had joined the war. He was allowed to move about freely inside Brooklyn, New York. He could not carry out any more experiments as he did not have access to any laboratory in New York. He stayed in the house of one of his sons, Konrad till his death.
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Major Works
His patented theories have been published in the books titled as ‘Electro Telegraphy by means of Condensers and Induction Coils’ and ‘Wireless Electro Transmission of Signals over Surfaces’.
Awards & Achievements
Karl Ferdinand Braun was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909 for his path-breaking discovery work in wireless telegraphy and television technology and inventions.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Amelie Buhler in 1883 while working at the Polytechnic school in Karlsruhe.
He had two sons and two daughters from this marriage.
Karl Ferdinand Braun died on April 20, 1918 in Brooklyn New York, United States, before the end of the First World War.
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