Christian Huelsmeyer

Christian Huelsmeyer

German inventor and entrepreneur
Date of Birth: 25.12.1881
Country: Germany

  1. Biography of Christian Hülsmeyer
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Career and Inventions
  4. Christian Hülsmeyer passed away on January 31, 1957.

Biography of Christian Hülsmeyer

Christian Hülsmeyer was a German inventor and entrepreneur, often credited with the invention of radar. However, his device, called the telemobiloscope, was unable to directly measure the distance to a target. Nonetheless, the telemobiloscope became the first patented device to detect the presence of distant objects using radio waves.

Early Life and Education

Christian Hülsmeyer was born on December 25, 1881, in Aidelstedt, Lower Saxony, Germany. He was the youngest of five children born to Johann Heinrich Ernst Meyer and Elisabeth Wilhelmine Brenning. Although he was initially named Johann Christel, he later became known as Christian as he grew older. During his school years, Hülsmeyer's talent was recognized by one of his teachers and in 1896, the same teacher helped him enroll in a pedagogical college in Bremen. In school, Christian showed a special interest in physics and was allowed to use the physics laboratory for conducting his own experiments. He was more interested in practical applications rather than purely academic research.

Career and Inventions

In June 1900, Hülsmeyer left college without completing his education and started working as an electrician apprentice at Siemens & Halske factory in Bremen. There, he learned how various devices were industrially applied, fueling his desire to invent. In April 1902, Christian left the factory and moved to Düsseldorf to live with his brother Wilhelm and pursue his ideas for creating electrical and optical devices.

With Wilhelm's help, Christian opened a workshop where he developed his inventions, including the telephonegram, a device that transmitted sounds via telegraph; an electro-optical data transmission system, and a wireless device for remote ignition of explosive substances. Hülsmeyer sold several of his patents and other inventions.

While developing the wireless device, Hülsmeyer read about Heinrich Hertz's discovery that electromagnetic waves reflect off metallic surfaces. Christian revisited this phenomenon when he was working on a system to prevent ship collisions in fog. He named his invention the telemobiloscope and filed a patent application on November 21, 1903, while also seeking sponsors.

In March 1904, Heinrich Mannheim, a leather merchant from Cologne, invested 2000 marks in Hülsmeyer's enterprise, hoping to receive 20% of future profits. The company, called Telemobiloskop-Gesellschaft Hülsmeyer & Mannheim, was officially registered in Cologne on July 7, 1904. The telemobiloscope was essentially a spark transmitter connected to multiple dipole antennas and a receiver with a coherer function, featuring a cylindrical parabolic antenna capable of rotating 360 degrees. The device came with a system to combat false signals. Although the telemobiloscope could not directly measure the distance to a target, an additional patent in April 1906 described an approximate range calculation method.

The first public demonstration of the telemobiloscope took place on May 17, 1904, in the courtyard of the Dom Hotel in Cologne. A conference was held in June 1904 in Scheveningen, Netherlands, with the participation of major shipping companies who were satisfied with the device's performance. One newspaper article stated, "As metallic objects reflect waves above and below the water, [Hülsmeyer's invention] may be of importance for future military operations." The design and demonstrations of the telemobiloscope depleted the funds of Telemobiloskop-Gesellschaft. On August 12, 1904, the rights to the device were sold to Z.H. Gumpel in Hannover. According to the agreement, Hülsmeyer could request up to 5000 marks for future research and claim 45% of future sales.

The wireless telegraphy and signaling company created by Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi displaced the telemobiloscope, dominating Europe and securing contracts with almost all transportation companies. One clause in the contract prohibited the use of any other devices not produced by Marconi's company. According to the official registry in Cologne, Telemobiloskop-Gesellschaft Hülsmeyer & Mannheim ceased to exist on October 5, 1905. In 1904, Hülsmeyer also filed a patent application for his machine to compress metal rods and pipes by diameter. In 1906, he founded a company specializing in supplying equipment for incandescent lamp production. A year later, Christian established the 'Kessel-und Apparatebau Christian Hülsmeyer' company in Düsseldorf, which produced steam and hot water boilers, high-pressure sensors, and anti-corrosion filters (under the trade name 'Rostex'). The company operated until 1953.

Throughout his career, Hülsmeyer realized and patented around 180 inventions. His entrepreneurial spirit and inventiveness helped him achieve financial success. Despite ongoing debates about who should be credited with inventing radar, Hülsmeyer remains revered in his native Germany. In January 1982, Professor K. Mauel gave a lecture in Düsseldorf on the history of radar, commemorating Christian's centenary. At the 2002 EUSAR conference in Cologne, the keynote speech was titled 'Hülsmeyer - Inventor of Radar'.

On October 29, 1910, Christian married Louise Petersen from Bremen. Between 1911 and 1924, the couple had six children. One of them, Anneliza Hülsmeyer-Hecker, continues to preserve a collection of documents related to her father and everything written about him. She also played a key role in gathering various items, including those that constitute the telemobiloscope, which is currently exhibited in the German Museum in Munich.

Christian Hülsmeyer passed away on January 31, 1957.