Collage Created by Ed Supovitz
Emile Berliner

American Jewish Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame


Emile Berliner: Inducted into
the National Inventors Hall-
of Fame-1994

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Emile Berliner is an American Jewish inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, in 1994, for his inventions of the gramophone; combined telegraph and telephone gramophone/microphone. The patent number(s) are 372,786; 463.569.

He was born on May 20, 1851, in Hanover, Germany, in a Jewish family. He emigrated to the United States in 1870 and lived and worked as a salesman in New York City and then in Washington, D.C. Berliner became interested in electricity in 1876. He became a naturalized citizen in 1881.

In 1886, Berliner began experimenting with methods to record sound. His first patent for the gramophone was a cylinder coated with lamp black. He continued his experiments with sound recording when in 1888 he started using flat discs which became very successful. He created the Berliner Gramophone Company with the help of businessmen giving him $25,000.

One of the problems he had was designing a clockwork spring-wound motor for a disc to record and play at a steady speed. Eldridge R. Johnson helped Berliner with this problem by designing this motor. Berliner and Johnson teamed up to create the Victor Talking Machine Company. He founded the Deutsche Gramophone Company and the Britain Gramophone Company to market the talking machine throughout Europe.

His trademark was a dog listening to his master’s voice taken from an amusing painting. Eventually, RCA bought the company and they continued with the same trademark.
Berliner was also involved in the fields of hygiene and health. In 1890, he organized and founded the Society for the Prevention of Sickness. He also organized, in 1907, the first milk conference in Washington, D.C., for the pasteurization of milk and the improvement of its quality. He was very active in the fight against the spread of tuberculosis, and he wrote many articles on hygiene and preventive medicine.
Berliner became interested in aviation and engaged in many experiments, which led to his introduction of the use of a revolving light engine. He focused his attention on the helicopter. Between 1919 and 1926, he built three helicopters, which he tested in flight. On July 16, 1922, Berliner and his son, Henry, demonstrated a working helicopter for the United States Army.

In 1899, Berliner wrote a book, Conclusions, that speaks of his agnostic ideas on religion and philosophy. At the end of his life, he supported the rebuilding of Palestine and was very active on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Emile Berliner died of a heart attack on August 3, 1929. He is buried in Washington, D.C., alongside his wife.


For additional information, contact
Special Collections and Archives
S.E. Wimberly Library


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Last updated 12 December 2008