Emil Rathenau

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Emil Rathenau
Emil Rathenau.jpg
Dr. Emil M. Rathenau, 1883
Born December 11, 1838
Berlin, Germany
Died June 20, 1915
Occupation Entrepreneur
Spouse(s) Mathilde Nachmann
Children Walther Rathenau
Erich Rathenau
Parent(s) Moritz Rathenau

Emil Moritz Rathenau (December 11, 1838 – June 20, 1915) was a German entrepreneur and industrialist, a leading figure in the early European electrical industry.


Rathenau was born in Berlin, into a wealthy Jewish merchant family based in that city. He was the son of Moritz Rathenau.

In 1865, Rathenau was a partner in a factory, during which time (while traveling abroad) he recognized the possibilities of the then newly emerging electrical technology.

In 1881, he attended the International Exposition of Electricity, Paris and saw Thomas Alva Edison's invention of the lightbulb for the first time.[1] Realizing that a lot of money could be made with electricity, he acquired the rights to manufacture products based on Edison's patents with the help of a bank group. The bank advised him to partner with his competitor Werner von Siemens. Since both were followers of the idea of monopoly they signed a contract of trust (monopoly) where Siemens was producing and selling generators and Rathenau built power stations and laid cables. In 1883 he founded the "German Edison Corporation for Applied Electricity" (Deutsche Edison-Gesellschaft für angewandte Elektricität), which in 1887 changed into the Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft(General Electricity Incorporated) abbreviated AEG. On February 19, 1884 Rathenau and the magistrate of Berlin signed an agreement on the electrification of Berlin.[1] While he financed the deal, Rathenau's private company was also allowed to use public streets for the electricity lines. The city received 10% of the income for giving its authorization. Peter Becker, a German energy expert has called this Germany's first private-public partnership and after the first power station of Berlin went online and illuminated the 'Gendarmenmarkt' at night, the Berlin model became influential throughout the German Empire.[1]

In 1903, Rathenau was appointed general manager of AEG. Together with his competitor and business partner, they formed the Telefunken Gesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie mbH. Rathenau held numerous positions on. the supervisory board of Berliner Handels-Gesellschaft und der Elektrizitäts AG vorm. W. Lahmeyer & Co.

Rathenau was married in 1866 to Mathilde Nachmann, daughter of a Frankfurt banker. One of his sons was the famous Walther Rathenau, a Weimar-era industrialist, politician, and progressive economist. Walther was assassinated in June 1922 by gangsters of the extreme right-wing. He had another son named Erich Rathenau and a daughter Edith.


  1. ^ a b c Florian Opitz (27 October 2014). "Akte D (3) - Die Macht der Stromkonzerne". Das Erste (in German) (ARD). Retrieved 29 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Pohl, Manfred (1988). Emil Rathenau and the AEG. Mainz: Hase & Koehler. ISBN 3-7758-1190-7. 
  • Dahlem, Markus. Case studies to the relationship of banks and large-scale enterprise in the German empire, 1871–1914. 
See also: Rathenau