Electrical engineer, inventor, founder of the Siemens company, and the man after whom the SI unit for conductance is named.
Ernst Werner Siemens was born on December 13, 1816 in Lenthe, Hannover, Prussia, present-day Germany.
Unable to attend the Academy of Civil Engineering in Berlin (the Bauakademie) due to the financial situation of his rather large family, Siemens joined the Prussian army to become an officer.
His training led him to the School of Artillery and Engineering in Berlin in 1835, which he attended for three years, and it was in his profession as artillery officer that he came in contact with telegraphy.
Siemens, now in his mid-twenties, became responsible for his younger siblings as both his parents passed away within the course of 1839 and 1840, and was forced to sell some of his patents to support the family.
For a more permanent source of income, however, he soon co-founded a Berlin-based company with Johann Georg Halske in 1847. The company manufactured Siemens' newest invention, the self-interrupting telegraph (an improvement of Sir Charles Wheatstone's 1837 invention), and built several important telegraph systems in Europe and Asia, mainly in Germany and Russia, as well as underwater telegraph lines. Two years later, Siemens resigned from the army and dedicated himself completely to the business, but he still had time for active lobbying to pass modern patent laws.
Being a businessman and lobbyist did not stop Siemens from creating new inventions, though. With his discovery of the dynamo-electric principle and the invention of the self-excited, electromagnet-based generator in 1866, he also sparked the beginning of high-voltage engineering (no pun intended). The same year, he developed a common steel-making process with his brother, Sir William Siemens, and in 1879, Werner Siemens built the world's first electrical train for the Berlin Trade Fair.
The same year, he co-founded the Elektrotechnisher Verein, the Electrotechnical (a term coined by Siemens himself) or Electrical Engineering Association, with Postmaster General Heinrich Stephan. The Physikalish-Technishe Reichsanstalt, the National Institute of Physics and Technology, was also founded based on his ideas.
Siemens was, however, as much an international businessman and industrialist visionary as he was an inventor and engineering genius. The early management of Siemens & Halske was based on multinational organization from the very beginning, which was highly unusual at the time, as most companies chose to grow by branching.
He gained his title of nobility in 1888. In 1890, he turned the company over to his brother Carl and his sons Arnold and Wilhelm. Two years later, Werner von Siemens passed away on December 6, 1892 in Berlin.