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Magdeburg, 1840
Room and workshop almost completely destroyed.

Werner von Siemens survives.

It all begins with the explosion.

This marks the start of a search.

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Who was Werner von Siemens? What kind of person comes close to blowing himself up in his workshop and then resolutely keeps on working?

Werner von Siemens, the self-made man, who builds a “#global business” from the ground up. A workaholic who thinks differently, globally, someone who is interested only in the future, not the past.
Is that true? Was he really that resolute? Or is all of this only a myth?

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Mecklenburg

The landscape of his childhood and youth.

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Werner is six years old when his parents take over the lease in Menzendorf, a small manor in the Principality of Ratzeburg. Werner later writes that those were happy years, “seemingly free and untamed,” surrounded by 11 siblings.

But life is not without its difficulties. His father is strict, a stickler for discipline and doing one’s duty. Although only a child himself, Werner is responsible for looking after his younger brothers and sisters. Werner learns how to assert himself.

Werner wants to go to the Academy of Architecture. But his father knows nothing about the natural sciences. Aside from that, there’s no money to finance his son’s higher education in Berlin.

Werner asserts himself. He knows that he can’t realize his dreams if he stays here. Not in Menzendorf.

The self-reliant 18-year-old sets off to walk to Berlin.

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Werner is six years old when his parents take over the lease in Menzendorf, a small manor in the Principality of Ratzeburg. Werner later writes that those were happy years, “seemingly free and untamed,” surrounded by 11 siblings.

But life is not without its difficulties. His father is strict, a stickler for discipline and doing one’s duty. Although only a child himself, Werner is responsible for looking after his younger brothers and sisters. Werner learns how to assert himself.

Werner wants to go to the Academy of Architecture. But his father knows nothing about the natural sciences. Aside from that, there’s no money to finance his son’s higher education in Berlin.

Werner asserts himself. He knows that he can’t realize his dreams if he stays here. Not in Menzendorf.

The self-reliant 18-year-old sets off to walk to Berlin.

242 km
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The destination is clear. The path to reach it is an indirect one – requiring obedience and submission.

Werner von Siemens joins the Prussian Army to gain access to a scientific and technical education. But first he must go through grueling military training. He doesn’t mind the drill; in fact, he actually enjoys the harsh regimental life. Is this because he knows the rough road he is on will take him to his destination?

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Everything proceeds as planned. Werner von Siemens becomes an officer candidate and is sent to the Berlin’s artillery and engineering school in 1835.

He discovers a whole new world: mathematics, physics, and chemistry! Berlin is a major city, a gathering place for the scientific avant garde! For three years he plunges into a fascinating new world. Full of curiosity and enthusiasm, he starts to work on his own research.

In 1838, the army orders Werner von Siemens to Magdeburg, where he experiences dull day-to-day life in the barracks. But his passion has been awakened. Time is tight, but he doggedly keeps tinkering and continues his experiments.

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Then two pieces of sad news reach him in quick succession.

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The destination is clear. The path to reach it is an indirect one – requiring obedience and submission.

Werner von Siemens joins the Prussian Army to gain access to a scientific and technical education. But first he must go through grueling military training. He doesn’t mind the drill; in fact, he actually enjoys the harsh regimental life. Is this because he knows the rough road he is on will take him to his destination?

Everything proceeds as planned. Werner von Siemens becomes an officer candidate and is sent to the Berlin’s artillery and engineering school in 1835.

He discovers a whole new world: mathematics, physics, and chemistry! Berlin is a major city, a gathering place for the scientific avant garde! For three years he plunges into a fascinating new world. Full of curiosity and enthusiasm, he starts to work on his own research.

In 1838, the army orders Werner von Siemens to Magdeburg, where he experiences dull day-to-day life in the barracks. But his passion has been awakened. Time is tight, but he doggedly keeps tinkering and continues his experiments.

Then two pieces of sad news reach him in quick succession.

His mother dies in July 1839.

He is hit hard by the loss.

His father dies six months later.

Everything suddenly changes for Werner von Siemens.

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He feels responsible for his brothers and sisters. The youngest is only three years old. The estate is deeply in debt. He must take action, do what he can, take care of the family. But he’s stuck in Magdeburg.

He has no choice. Neither his oldest brother nor his sisters can support the family. Werner feels the obligation to do his duty.

He feels responsible for his brothers and sisters. The youngest is only three years old. The estate is deeply in debt. He must take action, do what he can, take care of the family. But he’s stuck in Magdeburg.

He has no choice. Neither his oldest brother nor his sisters can support the family. Werner feels the obligation to do his duty.

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What are his options? He doesn’t earn enough as a lieutenant, and besides, he detests life in the barracks. But one thing captivates him and keeps him under its spell: his scientific and technical studies.

Werner doesn’t have to think for long: This is what drives him. But so far it’s a passion, not a profession. He wants to change that. He will redirect his research in a way that offers practical benefits and brings in orders!

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He starts with what he knows: military equipment. There’s a need to fill, because the detonators used by the army are antiquated. Using makeshift tools, he gets to work on development, taking advantage of every free moment to work on his experiments.

His objective: an innovative detonator.

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He starts with what he knows: military equipment. There’s a need to fill, because the detonators used by the army are antiquated. Using makeshift tools, he gets to work on development, taking advantage of every free moment to work on his experiments.

His objective: an innovative detonator.

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The experiment fails. The explosion bursts his eardrum – and he still doesn’t have a marketable product. But that doesn’t dissuade him. Werner von Siemens simply keeps on going, because HE WANTS TO ACHIEVE SOMETHING.

He stumbles on earlier research about electroplating. He soon recognizes the potential offered by the electrochemical coating method. He decides to follow that path and attempt gold-plating. The experiment is a success, and he is thrilled to see the deposit of “pure glittering gold.”

Werner von Siemens is convinced he’s on the right path.

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The experiment fails. The explosion bursts his eardrum – and he still doesn’t have a marketable product. But that doesn’t dissuade him. Werner von Siemens simply keeps on going, because HE WANTS TO ACHIEVE SOMETHING.

He stumbles on earlier research about electroplating. He soon recognizes the potential offered by the electrochemical coating method. He decides to follow that path and attempt gold-plating. The experiment is a success, and he is thrilled to see the deposit of “pure glittering gold.”

Werner von Siemens is convinced he’s on the right path.

Werner keeps working at top speed – this time with the objective of patenting his inventions and then selling the patents. But it doesn’t work. None of his efforts even comes close to his initial success.

But he also knows:
he won’t succeed on his own.

He needs a partner.

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The invention is patented in Prussia in 1842. But Werner von Siemens isn’t satisfied. He is not able to market the process on a large scale – at least not in Germany.

He’s under pressure, and haunted by worries about his brothers and sisters. How can he make money from this? He must succeed!

He sends his brother William, just 19 years old, to England to find a buyer for the patent. The trip pays off, and William earns so much money from the sale in Birmingham that there are no further worries about money for the present.

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Werner keeps working at top speed – this time with the objective of patenting his inventions and then selling the patents. But it doesn’t work. None of his efforts even comes close to his initial success.

On his 30th birthday, he takes stock – and makes a momentous decision. The “hunt for inventions” isn’t having the desired results, so he’ll have to change his strategy.

Werner decides to wager everything on one card: electrical telegraphy. The possibility of sending messages quickly and reliably – a #market of the future!

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On his 30th birthday, he takes stock – and makes a momentous decision. The “hunt for inventions” isn’t having the desired results, so he’ll have to change his strategy.

Werner decides to wager everything on one card: electrical telegraphy. The possibility of sending messages quickly and reliably – a #market of the future!

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But he also knows:
he won’t succeed on his own.

He needs a partner.

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Credits

Publisher

Siemens Historical Institute (SHI)
Nonnendammallee 101
13629 Berlin
Germany

Responsible for content
(pursuant to Section 55, para. 2 of the German Interstate Broadcasting Treaty (RStV))

Christoph Wegener
Siemens Historical Institute (SHI)
Nonnendammallee 101
13629 Berlin
Germany

Idea & concept

Sabine Dittler, SHI
Maximilian Heinrich, Virtual Identity AG

Script

Julia M. Novak

Research support

Johannes Bähr

Editorial team

Sabine Dittler, SHI
Julia M. Novak
Christoph Wegener, SHI

Design & animation

Joachim Roschka, Virtual Identity AG

Programming

Henk Blankenberg, Virtual Identity AG
Daniel Heidecke, Virtual Identity AG

Music & sound design

TAUCHER Sound Environments

Project management

Mareike Heilwagen, Virtual Identity AG

Project head

Sabine Dittler, SHI

Picture credits, Episode 1

Georg Simon Ohm: bpk, Berlin

Picture credits, Episode 2

Picture credits, Episode 3

Turbulent seas: iStock.com/stanchev

Wake: iStock.com/orbitrob

Underwater: iStock.com/Jezperklauzen

Stormy seas: aim/iStock/Thinkstock

Coastline: Rick Jacobs/iStock/Thinkstock

Picture credits, Episode 4

All other pictures are from the archives of the Siemens Historical Institute or Siemens AG. The copyrights belong to Siemens AG, Munich / Berlin.

All pictures are from the archives of the Siemens Historical Institute or Siemens AG. The copyrights belong to Siemens AG, Munich / Berlin.

All other pictures are from the archives of the Siemens Historical Institute or Siemens AG. The copyrights belong to Siemens AG, Munich / Berlin.

All pictures are from the archives of the Siemens Historical Institute or Siemens AG. The copyrights belong to Siemens AG, Munich / Berlin.

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