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Emile Berliner was a well-known American inventor best recognized for developing the phonograph. Born in Germany, this pioneer immigrated to the United States after fleeing his war-torn homeland. Despite his severe financial situation, he was adamant in his pursuit of knowledge, working odd jobs during the day and attending college at night. With his inquisitive nature, he became fascinated with Abraham Graham Bell’s innovation and began researching the telephonic apparatus. Berliner was able to design a transmitter that gave improved audio amplification despite having very rudimentary physics expertise. His abilities were recognized by the American Bell Telephone Company, which offered him a post in acoustics. He kept working on his innovations and came up with a number of novel concepts, including a mass-production loom for spinning fabric and a light-weight engine for use in helicopters. He devised a tile that could be used to increase sound in concert halls, based on his knowledge of sound and acoustics. His most famous invention, however, was the phonograph, which ushered in a new era in sound recording. To make the gadget, he even formed the Berliner Gramophone Company. Continue reading to learn more about his life and work.

Childhood and Adolescence

Emile Berliner was born on May 20, 1851, in the German city of Hanover, to Samuel and Sarah Fridman Berliner. The Berliners were a large family with eleven children, and while Samuel was a religious texts instructor, Sarah was a music specialist.

Emile finished his education in 1865 at the schools of Hanover, Wolfenbuttel, and Samsonschule.

Career of Emile Berliner

He began working as an accountant after completing his merchant training. His financial circumstances prevented him from pursuing his aspirations of developing new items and addressing issues, despite his desire for doing so.

In 1870, he left the war-torn country and arrived in Washington, D.C., in the United States. He got a clerical position at ‘Gotthelf, Behrend and Co’ in the new city, which was largely owned by his friend’s father.

To make ends meet, he relocated to New York City in 1873 and took odd jobs during the day. Emile went to the ‘Cooper Union Institute’ at night, where he studied physics and other disciplines.

He worked as a traveling salesman for a clothes retailer in Milwaukee from 1873 to 1876, before returning to New York to work as a cleaning person in the office of renowned scientist Constantin Fahlberg. This introduction to the realm of scientific study sparked his interest in pursuing a career in this discipline.

Berliner returned to Washington in 1876 and worked as a clerk for ‘Gotthelf, Behrend and Co.’ Alexander Graham Bell was credited with the creation of the telephone around the same period. The instrument piqued Berliner’s curiosity, and he started about researching it.

He concentrated on enhancing the quality of audio delivered through the telephone’s mouthpiece. He worked tirelessly to design and create a high-quality transmitter that allowed for audio amplification. He called the gadget a “loose contact” transmitter, and it was one of the first microphones ever invented.

The ‘American Bell Telephone Company,’ impressed by the transmitter’s simplicity and brilliance, offered Berliner a post as a research assistant and even sought a patent for his invention.

Emile joined the ABT Co. in 1877 and relocated to Boston from New York. He was connected with the telephone sector at the company and made important contributions in this area, while also acquiring a reputation as a skilled electrician.

In 1881, he was granted American citizenship, and the following year, he married Cora Adler.

He invented an ingenious floor covering in 1883, which he patented as the “Parquet Carpet.”

The hardworking inventor left his position at ABT Co. in 1884 to follow his passion of designing new things. He and his wife relocated from Boston to Washington and made their home there.

In Washington, he continued to work on Graham Bell’s telephonic equipment and was able to make significant improvements. He subsequently sold the ‘Bell Telephone Company’ his patents for his discoveries.

He began researching methods for recording sound in 1886, and as a result, the world’s first “Gramophone” was born. The technology was a significant advancement above previous technologies, and it completely changed the field of sound recording.

Emile founded the ‘Berliner Gramophone Company’ in 1895, which offered a full-sized reproduction of the toy model and a seven-inch record for sound recording, which was originally created as a little toy gadget that was hand-driven in Europe.

He then partnered with Eldridge R Johnson, an engineer by trade, to create a motor-driven phonograph model. The team devised a motor that consisted of a winding spring that rotated the disc at a constant speed.

When Berliner was forbidden from selling his own devices in the United States due to fraudulent methods, his manufacturer, Eldridge, founded the ‘Victor Talking Machine Company’ in 1901, with Emile as a co-founder.

The ‘US Berliner Gramophone Company’ ceased business in the mid-1900s, and Emile relocated to Canada. In 1904, he founded the ‘Berliner Gramophone Company of Canada,’ which he reformed five years later to unite with the parent company, ‘Berliner Gramophone Co.’

During the years 1906-07, Berliner became interested in the research of flying vehicles and began work on a light-weight IC engine that may be utilized in helicopters.

In 1909, he received a patent for a model of a helicopter that could hoist two persons. In the same year, he established the ‘Gyro Motor Company,’ which produced the rotary engine he created.

He devoted the following two decades, until 1926, to the study of technology linked to vertical flight, and in partnership with R.S. Moore, he improved his model of IC engine.

Continuing his research into acoustics, the renowned inventor devised a way for producing tiles with improved resonance. In 1926, acoustic tiles constructed of porous cement were patented under the name “Acoustic tiles.”

In 1929, the ‘Gyro Motor Company’ merged with the ‘Maryland Aviation Commission,’ giving birth to the ‘Berliner Joyce Aircraft.’

In addition, the famed inventor created a prototype of a weaving machine that might be used to mass-produce fabric.

Emile is a strong proponent of public health and cleanliness, and has written several books on the subject. Some of his written works include ‘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,’ and ‘Muddy Jim and other rhymes.’

Major Projects of Emile Berliner

Berliner is credited with numerous notable inventions, but his most important contribution was the invention of the phonograph, which ushered in a new era in sound recording. The light weight IC engine, which could successfully power the rotors of a helicopter, was another of his inventions that transformed the aviation business.

Achievements & Awards

In 1897, the ‘Franklin Institute’ science museum in Philadelphia awarded him the ‘John Scott Medal.’

In 1913, the Franklin Institute’s highest prize, the ‘Elliott Cresson Medal,’ was given to the famed inventor.

In 1929, the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia honoured Emile Berliner with the Franklin medal, which was a science award.

Personal History and Legacy

Emile married Cora Adler in 1881, the same year he was formally recognized as an American citizen.

The ‘Berliner Aircraft Company’ was founded by their son Henry Berliner.

On August 3, 1929, in Washington, DC, the famed inventor passed away. He died of a heart attack and was laid to rest at the ‘Rock Creek Cemetry.’

Estimated net worth

The estimated net worth of Emile Berliner is unknown.