Early life and education
Born in Berlin on May 9, 1912, Sennheiser grew up with an interest in radios and electronics. Sennheiser built a crystal radio when he was 11 years old after seeing an early radio. He had originally hoped to become a landscape gardener, but chose instead to pursue electrical engineering at the Berlin Institute of Technology and earned a Ph.D. from the Heinrich Hertz Institute in 1940. Sennheiser developed a reverberation unit that was used at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. He was responsible for sending coded messages for the German Army during World War II.
Sennheiser went into business for himself, and achieved early success with a tube voltmeter and microphone, both of which were purchased by Siemens. Later products in the 1950s included his invention of the shotgun microphone, early wireless microphones as well as its distinctive headphones that fit over the ear with flat, disc-shaped headpieces. Sennheiser stepped down as chairman in 1982, turning control of the business over to his son Jörg. By the time of his death, the family-owned business employed 2,100 people with manufacturing facilities in Germany, Ireland and the United States and had sales of $500 million in 2008.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Sennheiser in 1987 with its Scientific and Engineering Award for the development of the MKH 816 shotgun microphone. The Audio Engineering Society (AES) awarded Sennheiser a fellowship in 1976, an honorary membership in 1980, and with its highest accolade, the AES Gold Medal, in 2002.
Sennheiser died at age 98 on May 17, 2010, and was survived by his son, daughter, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.