Emil Rathenau

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Emil Rathenau
Emil Rathenau.jpg
Dr. Emil M. Rathenau, 1883
Born11 December 1838
Died20 June 1915 (1915-06-21) (aged 76)
Spouse(s)Mathilde Nachmann
ChildrenWalther Rathenau
Erich Rathenau
Jenny Apolant
Parent(s)Moritz Rathenau

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


Rathenau was born in Berlin, into a wealthy Jewish merchant family based on Viktoriastrasse by the Tiergarten, an old Jewish quarter of the city. Henriette Herz and Rahel Varnhagen could describe Friedrich von Genz, and the philosopher, Schiller, both known to his grandparents and father 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. The dramatic victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War was ensued by a collapse, prompting Rathenau to sell up in 1873.

A Grand Tour of Central and Eastern Europe took him to Vienna Science Exhibition, Philadelphia, and Paris. In 1881, he attended the International Exposition of Electricity, Paris and saw Thomas Alva Edison's invention of the light bulb for the first time.[1] Realizing the potential of electricity, he acquired the rights to manufacture products based on Edison's patents with the help of a bank group. By 1907 AEG had become the largest commercial company in the world. 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 Elektrizität), which in 1887 changed into the Allgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (General Electricity Incorporated) abbreviated AEG.

On 19 February 1884 Rathenau and the magistrate of Berlin signed an agreement on the electrification of the city.[1] While he financed the deal, Rathenau's private company was also permitted to use public streets to lay 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 went online to illuminate 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. He 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 Walther Rathenau, an industrialist, politician, and progressive economist who served as German Foreign Minister during the Weimar Republic, and was assassinated in Berlin in June 1922 by the right-wing terrorist group Organisation Consul. He had another son named Erich Rathenau and a daughter Edith.

See also[edit]


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

External links[edit]