Emile Berliner

Emil Berliner

Emile Berliner (formally known as Emil Berliner) was an inventor best known for developing the disc record gramophone. He founded The Berliner Gramophone Company in 1895, The Gramophone Company in London, England, Deutsche Gramophone in Hanover, Germany and Berliner Gram-o-phone Company of Canada.

Early Life and Career:

Emile Berliner was born in Hanover, Germany on the 20th of May 1851. He was one of thirteen children born to Samuel and Sarah Berliner. Following a few years of school in Hanover, Berliner was sent to Wolfenbuttel from which he graduated in 1865 at the age of fourteen. Berliner then spent several years there after doing odd jobs in Hanover to help support the large Berliner family. He migrated to the United States of America in 1870, where he lived in Washington, D.C. and officially turned a citizen in 1881. He became interested in the new audio technology of the telephone and phonograph, and invented an improved telephone transmitter. In 1886 Berliner began experimenting with methods of sound recording. He was granted his first patent for what he called the “gramophone” in 1887. 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.


Berliner started to compose as well. He expressed his love for America and the opportunities it had afforded him in a patriotic song which became a smash hit of its day: The Columbian Anthem- a song debuted in Washington on Washington’s Birthday at the 1897 national council of the Daughters of the American Revolution. As a composition it ranks easily with the best national hymns ever written.

Berliner turned his attention to the violin. It is well known that antique violins are consistently more brilliant over their entire range than new instruments. Berliner determined that the new instrument did not vibrate freely because the fibers of the wood under the bridge took much time to adjust to the uneven pressures transmitted by the strings through the bridge to the instruments body.

In 1909 he donated funds for an infirmary building at the Starmont Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Washington Grove, Maryland, dedicated to the memory of his father. Berliner was president of the Washington Tuberculosis Association for some years. In 1920 Berliner endowed a silver cup as an annual award by the Tuberculosis Association to the city whose school children were most engaged in his health crusade.

In 1899, Berliner wrote a book, Conclusions that speaks of his agnostic ideas on religion and philosophy.

Berliner was also awarded the Franklin Institute’s John Scott Medal in 1897, and later the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1913 and the Franklin Medal in 1929.


Emile Berliner died of a heart attack at the age of 78 and is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Through his innovations and inventions, he left invaluable legacies in communications, acoustics, and aeronautics to America and to the rest of the world.