Berliner, Emile [Emil ]
- Bryan S. Wright
(b Hanover, Germany, May 20, 1851; d Washington, DC, Aug 3, 1929). Inventor of German birth. He graduated from the Samsonschule in Wolfenbüttel at age 14 and immigrated at 18 to the United States, working odd jobs in Washington, DC, Milwaukee, and New York City. Despite limited formal scientific education, Berliner pursued his interest in electricity and acoustics and in 1876 developed and patented an improved microphone for Bell’s newly-invented telephone. For the next seven years, he worked as a research assistant for the American Bell Telephone Company before leaving to become a freelance researcher and inventor. Between 1883 and 1886 he obtained patents for acoustic tiles and floor coverings and experimented with a lightweight internal combustion engine for helicopters.
Berliner is best remembered for developing the gramophone in 1887, a variation of Thomas Edison’s phonograph. Where the phonograph recorded sounds with a vertically-cut groove of varying depth on a rotating cylinder, Berliner’s gramophone recorded sounds with a spiraling laterally-cut groove of constant depth on the surface of a flat disc. Unlike Edison, who viewed his phonograph primarily as a tool for dictation, Berliner envisioned the commercial appeal of the gramophone as a device for home entertainment. In ...