Emile Berliner

Emile Berliner

American inventor, best known as the creator of the disc gramophone-phonograph.
Date of Birth: 20.05.1851
Country: USA

Biography of Emil Berliner

Emil Berliner was an American inventor, best known as the creator of the disc gramophone-phonograph. Born in Hanover, Germany, Berliner came from a family of Jewish merchants. Surprisingly, his Jewish heritage did not hinder Berliner from becoming a devout agnostic. While he initially studied business in preparation to continue the family tradition, his true passion lay in inventing. To make ends meet, Berliner worked as an accountant. In order to avoid military conscription and the Franco-Prussian War, Berliner immigrated to the United States in 1870.

Emile Berliner

He spent some time in Washington, D.C before moving to New York, where he worked odd jobs while studying physics at the Cooper Union Institute at night. Berliner worked in a sausage factory for a period of time, during which he became fascinated with new sound technology - the telephone and phonograph. Berliner's first significant invention was an improved sound transmitter (microphone) for the telephone, and this patent was later acquired by the Bell Telephone Company.

Emile Berliner

In 1877, Berliner moved to Boston where he worked for the Bell Telephone Company until 1883. He then returned to Washington, D.C to pursue private research. Berliner obtained U.S citizenship in 1881. In 1886, Berliner began experimenting with sound recording and in 1887, he patented the so-called "gramophone" - a device that allowed sound to be recorded through horizontal modulation of a pen on a rotating cylindrical surface covered with a flexible material.

Emile Berliner

Initially, Berliner intended for the recording to be fixed with a special lacquer and copied through photogravure onto a metal cylinder that could be used for playing the sound without risking damage to the original recording. However, Berliner quickly realized that discs were much more convenient than cylinders as they were easier to mass-produce. In 1888, Berliner proposed a new, more practical method of recording - the sound track was etched into a layer of wax on top of a zinc disc, which was later treated with acid to give the recording greater durability.

By the 1890s, Berliner's licensing project in Germany was actively producing toy gramophones and accompanying discs. However, due to issues with American patents, trade could only be conducted in Europe. Berliner saw his invention as something greater than a simple toy and in 1895, he secured investments and founded the US Berliner Gramophone Company. The new company focused on producing larger gramophones, but they had to be manually turned, which complicated the quality of sound reproduction.

Emil Berliner was able to devise an affordable spring motor with the help of Eldridge R. Johnson. However, problems continued to arise on the American side for Berliner. First, one of his protégés began selling his own gramophones (along with illegal copies of Berliner's gramophones), and then Berliner himself was legally deprived of the right to produce his own inventions.

Berliner's list of inventions goes beyond just gramophones; he is also credited with creating a new type of spinning machine for mass production of fabric, sound-absorbing tiles, and even one of the first models of helicopters. Emil Berliner passed away from a heart attack on August 3, 1929, at the age of 78.

© BIOGRAPHS