Emile Berliner and Sound Technology

March 4, 1877:  Emile Berliner invented the microphone.  He would also invent the flat disc that replaced Edison’s cylinder and became the prototype for the record which would become the standard for the recording industry for the better part of a hundred years.

Berliner was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1851 into a Jewish merchant family. Though raised in a Jewish family, he later became an agnostic.  He completed an apprenticeship to become a merchant, as was family tradition. While his real hobby was invention, he worked as an accountant to make ends meet. To avoid being drafted for the Franco-Prussian War, Berliner migrated to the United States of America in 1870 with a friend of his father’s, in whose shop he worked in Washington, D.C.  He moved to New York and, living off temporary work, such as doing the paper route and cleaning bottles, he studied physics at night at the Cooper Union Institute.  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). The patent was acquired by the Bell Telephone Company. But on February 27, 1901 the United States Court of Appeal declared the patent void. Berliner subsequently moved to Boston 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. Berliner also invented what was probably the first radial aircraft engine (1908), a helicopter (1919), and acoustical tiles (1920s).

In 1886 Berliner began experimenting with methods of sound recording. He was granted his first patent for what he called the “Gramophone” in 1887.

In 2008, the postal authority of São Tomé and Principe printed a souvenir sheet honoring inventors which included a 15,000-dobra stamp commemorating Berliner’s invention of the Gramophone.

This is not listed in Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog as it is believed that it was never issued. The other inventors honored in the sheet include:  Samuel Morse (Morse code); Blaise Pascal (mechanical calculator); Nicolas Cugnot (automobile); Rudolf Diesel (Diesel engine); and Ivan Kulibin (elevator).

Emile Berliner - St. Tome 2008

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