views updated


Philips was founded by Gerard Philips (1858–1942) in 1891 in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Initially, the company concentrated on making carbon-filament lamps, and by the turn of the century it was one of the largest producers in Europe. It focused on research and development and marketing, establishing marketing companies in the United States and France before World War I, in Belgium in 1919, and in the 1920s, all over Europe. The company introduced a medical X-ray tube in 1918 and began to export it to the United States by 1926. It became involved in the first experiments in television in 1925, and started to produce radios in 1927, and electric shavers in 1939. In 1939 the company employed 45,000 people worldwide.

After World War II Philips worked on transistors and integrated circuits, which resulted in the discovery in the 1960s of CCDs (charge-coupled devices) and LOCOS (local oxidation of silicon). Among the major subsequent inventions were the compact audio cassette in 1963, PL and SL energy-saving lamps in the 1970s, and the laser vision optical disc and the compact disc in 1978. Philips established PolyGram in 1972, and acquired Magnavox (1974) and Signetics (1975) in the United States. Acquisitions in the 1980s included the television business of GTE Sylvania (1981) and the lamp business of Westinghouse (1983). Philips is Europe's largest electronic company, with 159,700 employees and sales of over 30 billion euros in 2004. It operates in the areas of lighting, consumer electronics, domestic appliances, semiconductors, and medical systems.


Philips, Frits. Forty-Five Years with Philips. London: Blandford Press, 1978.


Philips web site. Available from

Federico Boffa

About this article


Updated About content Print Article