Emile Berliner - developing the disc record gramophone
(May 20, 1851 – August 3, 1929) was a German-born American inventor, best known for developing the disc record gramophone (phonograph in American English). He founded The Berliner Gramophone Company in 1895, The Gramophone Company in London, England, in 1897, Deutsche Grammophon in Hanover, Germany, in 1898 and Berliner Gram-o-phone Company of Canada in Montreal in 1899 (chartered in 1904).
Life and work
Born to a Jewish family in Hanover, Germany, Emil Berliner immigrated to the United States of America in 1870, where he established himself in Washington, D.C. After some time working in a livery stable, he became interested in the new audio technology of the telephone and phonograph, and invented an improved telephone transmitter (one of the first type of microphones) which was acquired by the Bell Telephone Company. Berliner subsequently moved to Boston in 1877 and worked for Bell Telephone until 1883, when he returned to Washington and established himself as a private researcher.
Emile Berliner became a United States citizen in 1881.
In 1886 Berliner began experimenting with methods of sound recording. He was granted his first patent for what he called the "gramophone" in 1887. The first gramophones recorded sound using horizontal modulation on a cylinder coated with a low resistance material such as lamp black, subsequently fixed with varnish and then copied by photoengraving on a metal playback cylinder. This was similar to the method employed by Edison's machines. In 1888 Berliner invented a simpler way to record sound by using discs. Within a few years he was successfully marketing his technology to toy companies. However, he hoped to develop his device as more than a mere toy, and in 1895 persuaded a group of businessmen to put up $25,000 with which he created the Berliner Gramophone Company.
Emile Berliner with an unidentified woman.A problem with early gramophones was getting the turntable to rotate at a steady speed during playback of a disc. Engineer Eldridge R. Johnson helped solve this problem by designing a clock-work spring-wound motor. In 1901 Berliner and Johnson teamed up to found the Victor Talking Machine Company.
Berliner's other inventions include a new type of loom for mass-production of cloth; an acoustic tile; and an early version of the helicopter. According to a July 1, 1909, report in The New York Times, a helicopter built by Berliner and J. Newton Williams of Derby, Connecticut, had lifted its operator (Williams) "from the ground on three occasions" at Berliner's laboratory in the Brightwood neighborhood of Washington, D.C. On July 16, 1922, Berliner and his son, Henry, demonstrated a working helicopter for the United States Army.
Berliner was also active in advocating improvements in public health and sanitation.
Emile Berliner died of a heart attack at the age of 78 and is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C., alongside his wife and a son.
Marker for the Berliner family in Washington, DC.
Conclusions, 1902, Kaufman Publishing Co.
The Milk Question and Mortality Among Children Here and in Germany: An Observation, 1904, The Society for Prevention of Sickness
Some Neglected Essentials in the Fight against Consumption, 1907, The Society for Prevention of Sickness
A Study Towards the Solution of Industrial Problems in the New Zionist Commonwealth, 1919, N. Peters
Muddy Jim and other rhymes: 12 illustrated health jingles for children, 1919, Jim Publication Company.
Frederic William Wile, Emile Berliner Maker of the Microphone, 1974, Ayer Company, ISBN 0-405-06062-9.
Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry at the Library of Congress including audio archive
Emile Berliner: Inventor of the Gramophone (Library of Congress)
Berliner timeline and patent list
The Berliner helicopters at the National Air and Space Museum
Berliner in the Inventor's Hall of Fame
Illustrated Berliner page
Contents of Berliner's case file at The Franklin Institute contains evidence and correspondence with Berliner regarding the award of his 1929 Franklin Medal for acoustic engineering and development of the gramophone
Musée des ondes Emile Berliner in Montreal, Quebec contains over 8000 recordings and 2000 other artifacts
Patent images in TIFF format
U.S. Patent 199,141 Telephone (induction coils), filed October 1877, issued January 1878
U.S. Patent 222,652 Telephone (carbon diaphragm microphone), filed August 1879, issued December 1879
U.S. Patent 224,573 Microphone (loose carbon rod), filed September 1879, issued February 1880
U.S. Patent 225,790 Microphone (spring carbon rod), filed Nov 1879, issued March 1880
UK Patent 15232 filed November 8, 1887
U.S. Patent 372,786 Gramophone (horizontal recording), original filed May 1887, refiled September 1887, issued November 8, 1887
U.S. Patent 382,790 Process of Producing Records of Sound (recorded on a thin wax coating over metal or glass surface, subsequently chemically etched), filed March 1888, issued May 1888
U.S. Patent 463,569 Combined Telegraph and Telephone (microphone), filed June 1877, issued November 1891
U.S. Patent 548,623 Sound Record and Method of Making Same (duplicate copies of flat, zinc disks by electroplating), filed March 1893, issued October 1895
U.S. Patent 564,586 Gramophone (recorded on underside of flat, transparent disk), filed November 7, 1887, issued July 1896
For the complete inventors list please click here