Sir William Siemens

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Siemens (founded in 1847) is a German technology firm that has played an important role in the development of communication technologies. Many of its innovations have been instrumental in fueling the second industrial revolution and promoting international trade.

Most notable in the nineteenth century were its contributions to telegraphy. In 1870 the firm completed a 6,000-mile overland cable line that connected London directly with Calcutta. Four years later Siemens was responsible for laying the first submarine telegraph cable that connected Ireland directly with the United States (previous cables had been relayed through Newfoundland). Siemens was also famous for developing the first electric-power transmission system in Europe (1876), the first electrified railway in the world (1879), and the first x-ray tube (1896). In 1933 Siemens established the tele-printer-exchange service, which is the standard used for legal documents and diplomatic correspondence worldwide.

Because of its extensive participation on behalf of Germany during World War II, the years immediately following the war were catastrophic for Siemens. Nevertheless, it recovered and resumed its worldwide prominence. Today Siemens is Europe's largest electrical engineering firm, with worldwide operations totaling over U.S.$80 billion in sales.

SEE ALSO Information and Communications.


Davenport, Thomas H., and Probst, Gilbert, eds. Knowledge Management Case Book: Siemens Best Practises. Erlangen, Germany: Publicis MCD, 2000.

Kudo, Akira; Kipping, Matthias; and Schröter, Harm G., eds. German and Japanese Business in the Boom Years: Transforming American Management and Technology Models. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Lowendahl, Henry. Bargaining with Multinationals: The Investment of Siemens and Nissan in North-East England. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Benjamin Passty

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Sir William Siemens, 1823–83, English electrical engineer, b. Germany; brother of Ernst Werner von Siemens. Originally his name was Carl Wilhelm Siemens. After visiting England to introduce an electroplating device he devised with his brother Ernst he returned in 1844 and became (1859) a naturalized British subject. He was head of the English branch of the Siemens firm, which made telegraphic and other electrical apparatus and handled electrical engineering projects. Among his important inventions were a water meter (1851) and a device for reproducing printing that remained standard until the development of photography, and he was one of the first to apply (1883) electric power to railways. With his brother Frederick he developed an improved regenerative furnace that was used to produce steel; the process, and a variation of it introduced by Pierre Martin, came to be known as the open-hearth process. He was knighted in 1883.

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Siemens German brothers, who were associated with the electrical engineering industry. Ernst Werner von Siemens (1816–92), developed an electric telegraph system in 1849. Ernst and Karl (1829–1906) set up subsidiaries of the family firm in London, Vienna, and Paris. Frederich (1826–1904) and Karl Wilhelm (later William) (1823–83) developed a regenerative furnace that was used extensively in industry. Karl Wilhelm introduced (1843) an electroplating process to Britain.

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siemens (S) The derived SI unit of electrical conductance in a circuit with a resistance of one ohm, and thus equal to a reciprocal ohm (mho, or Ω−1). It is used in measuring conductivities, where the unit is S/m. The siemens is named after Sir William Siemens (1823–83).