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Siemens, (Ernst) Werner von

electricity electrical using principle’

[ zee muhns] (1816–92) German electrical engineer: developed electricity generation through application of the ‘dynamo principle’.

Siemens was the eldest of the four Siemens brothers and was educated at Lübeck, and later at the army engineering school in Berlin, where he was imprisoned for duelling. His interests were wide-ranging – electroplating, discharge tubes to generate ozone, a standard of electrical resistance using mercury, and electrolytic refining, to name a few. He made several innovations to existing telegraphs, including seamless insulation for the wire, which enabled the company he founded (Siemens & Halske, 1847) to become a leading supplier of such systems, including the London–Calcutta line in 1870. In 1867 he revolutionized electricity generation by using self-generated electricity to power electromagnets (the ‘dynamo principle’), doing away with the expensive permanent magnets previously used in such generators. This enabled his company to become a pioneer in the fields of electric traction and electricity generating equipment.

The SI unit of electrical conductance, the siemens (S), is named after him.

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