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Emile Berliner (May 20, 1851August 3, 1929) was a Germanmarker-born Americanmarker 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, Englandmarker, in 1897, Deutsche Grammophon in Hanovermarker, Germanymarker, in 1898 and Berliner Gram-o-phone Company of Canada in Montrealmarker in 1899 (chartered in 1904).

Life and work

Born in Hanovermarker, Germanymarker, Emile Berliner immigrated to the United States of Americamarker in 1870, where he established himself in Washington, D.C.marker 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, see The Telephone Cases. Berliner subsequently moved to Bostonmarker 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.

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, Connecticutmarker, had lifted its operator (Williams) "from the ground on three occasions" at Berliner's laboratory in the Brightwoodmarker 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 Cemeterymarker in Washington, D.C., alongside his wife and a son.



Emile Berliner with an unidentified woman.

  • 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.


Marker for the Berliner family in Washington, DC.

Patent images in TIFF format
  • Telephone (induction coils), filed October 1877, issued January 1878
  • Telephone (carbon diaphragm microphone), filed August 1879, issued December 1879
  • Microphone (loose carbon rod), filed September 1879, issued February 1880
  • Microphone (spring carbon rod), filed Nov 1879, issued March 1880
  • UK Patent 15232 filed November 8, 1887
  • Gramophone (horizontal recording), original filed May 1887, refiled September 1887, issued November 8, 1887
  • 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
  • Combined Telegraph and Telephone (microphone), filed June 1877, issued November 1891
  • Sound Record and Method of Making Same (duplicate copies of flat, zinc disks by electroplating), filed March 1893, issued October 1895
  • Gramophone (recorded on underside of flat, transparent disk), filed November 7 1887, issued July 1896

Further reading


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