Zénobe Gramme

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Zénobe Gramme
Zénobe Gramme 1893.jpg
Zénobe Gramme by Nadar, 1893
Born (1826-04-04)4 April 1826
Jehay-Bodegnée, Belgium
Died 20 January 1901(1901-01-20) (aged 74)
Bois-Colombes, France
Resting place Père Lachaise Cemetery
Nationality Belgian
Occupation electrical engineer
Known for Gramme dynamo

Zénobe Théophile Gramme was a Belgian electrical engineer. He was born at Jehay-Bodegnée on 4 April 1826, the sixth child of Mathieu-Joseph Gramme,[1] and died at Bois-Colombes on 20 January 1901. He invented the Gramme machine, a type of direct current dynamo capable of generating smoother (less AC) and much higher voltages than the dynamos known to that point.

Gramme machine as motor[edit]

In 1873 he and Hippolyte Fontaine accidentally discovered that the device was reversible[2] and would spin when connected to any DC power supply. The Gramme machine was the first usefully powerful electrical motor that was successful industrially. Before Gramme's inventions, electric motors attained only low power and were mainly used as toys or laboratory curiosities.

In 1875, Nikola Tesla observed a Gramme machine at the Graz University of Technology. He conceived the idea of using it for alternating current but was unable to develop the idea at this time.[3]


In 1857 he married Hortense Nysten who was a widow and mother of a daughter, Héloïse. Hortense died in 1890.[1]

Death and tributes[edit]

Gramme died at Bois-Colombes, France, on 20 January 1901 and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

In the city of Liège there is a graduate school of engineering, l'Institut Gramme, named after him.

In 2005 he ended at the 23rd place in the election of Le plus grand Belge (The Greatest Belgian), the television show broadcast by the French-speaking RTBF and based on the BBC show 100 Greatest Britons.

A958 Zenobe Gramme, (1961–), a sailing ship of the Belgian Navy used for training, is named after him.

Picture gallery[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Zénobe Gramme : un enfant du pays". Hyperpaysagedejehay.be. 8 June 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "Hippolyte Fontaine (French engineer) – Encyclopedia Britannica". Britannica.com. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Nikola Tesla: Planting Seends". Fi.edu. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 

Related pages[edit]

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