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Werner von Siemens – the exciting life of an electrical pioneer

Werner von Siemens’ life story is filled with pioneering inventions, courageous decisions and exciting experiences – and not so different from the career of one of today’s startup entrepreneurs.

 

Enter the world of this visionary entrepreneur and company founder and find out how a young man without much money built a global corporation out of nothing, solely on the basis of good ideas, firm principles, persistence and endurance. 

Werner’s youth and study

Werner von Siemens’ life didn’t always take the most direct route, and he saw a number of highs and lows, both privately and professionally. The pattern already began in his youth. When his parents could not afford the high tuition for the architectural academy, he abruptly decided to join the Prussian army, in the hopes of getting his scientific training there. He shunned no endeavor or effort to pass the difficult examination for acceptance as an artillery officer.

The company’s founding and international expansion

A young entrepreneur’s taste for adventure

Business flourished, and Siemens & Halske now also began laying telegraph cable in the Mediterranean. Werner von Siemens’ taste for adventure always kept him in the forefront of all new endeavors and repeatedly led him into curious and even dangerous situations: from “doing magic” on an Egyptian Pyramid to being shipwrecked on a desert island. That was too much excitement for his partner Johann Georg Halske; Halske found the submarine cable business too risky and withdrew from Siemens & Halske’s English branch.

Not just a businessman

Werner von Siemens was never just a successful businessman. He was also active politically. As a Deputy to the Reichstag, he argued for a “Made in Germany” seal of quality – which he considered an incontrovertible sign of “manufacturer’s pride.” He was also a major advocate for eliminating customs borders within Europe – here too, as in so many other ways, he was ahead of his time.

Professional successes and personal milestones

Passing along the baton of success

At age 60, Werner von Siemens could look back on a successful life as an entrepreneur. He continued to work with the company, became involved with politics once again and advocated strengthening German business. Another important point for him was that his employees should be happy at the company and feel they were paid fairly. In a practice that was far from common at the time, he instituted a profit-sharing arrangement for the team and offered them numerous social benefits. This strengthened their sense of loyalty to the company and thus laid the groundwork for the ownership culture that has distinguished those who work for Siemens in thought and action right down to today.