Charles William Siemens

Biography of Charles William Siemens

Carl Wilhelm Siemens

German-born engineer and entrepreneur, Sir Charles William Siemens FRSA aka Carl Wilhelm Siemens was born on 4 April 1823 to Christian Ferdinand Siemens and Eleonore Deichman. He worked most of his life in Britain and later on became a British subject.

At the age of fifteen in the autumn of 1838 Siemens started studying to become an engineer by attending the Gewerbe-Schule Magdeburg, a highly respected School of Trade and Commerce. As soon as William had completed his course at the Magdeburg school he proceeded to the University of Göttingen where he attended classes on physical geography and technology, high mathematics, theoretical chemistry and practical chemistry and physics. For a short time he was also able to work with the renowned scientist and inventor, Wilhelm Weber, in his Magnetic Observatory. When Siemens left university to become an apprentice engineer he was almost nineteen. His development in the engineering factory was so quick that his two-year apprenticeship was cut down to one.

The Regenerative Furnace

Siemens had been qualified as a mechanical engineer. HIs greatest achievement was, the regenerative furnace. He rejected the older concepts of heat as a substance but rather accepted it as a form of energy. Running on this new line of thought, he made his first shot to economise heat, by building an engine of four horse-power, including a condenser provided with regenerators, and consuming superheated steam, in 1847. In 1850 the Society of Arts, acknowledged the value of this principle, by awarding Siemens a gold medal for his regenerative condenser despite the use of superheated steam being attended with many practical difficulties, and the invention not being entirely successful.

In 1850 he established the engineering company, Siemens & Halske, which was engaged in building long distance telegraph networks in Russia. By 1863, Sir William had his own cable factory assembled at Charlton, London. In 1867, Siemens accomplished the monumental Indo-European (Calcutta to London) telegraph line.

In 1859 William Siemens dedicated a great deal of his time to electrical invention and research along with the number of telegraph apparatus of all sorts such as telegraph cables, land lines, and their accessories has been remarkable. In 1872 Siemens became the first President of the Society of Telegraph Engineers which later became the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

Siemens Discoveries

 Gas Engine of Charles William Siemens

Gas Engine of Charles William Siemens

Siemens was also responsible for the hot tube ignition system which was used on numerous of the early gas engines. Siemens’s inventions of the electric pyrometer is furthermore the link which connects his electrical with his metallurgical researches. Siemens worked on two major ideas in his innovative efforts, one based upon the science of heat while the other was based upon the science of electricity. Imbued with the idea of regeneration Siemens proposed a hypothesis on which the sun stores its heat by a circulation of its fuel in space, later reissued as the Conservation of Solar Energy, since as an inventor he was always on the lookout in nature for that thrift of power which he had always aimed at.

Charles William Siemens Death

Siemens was married to Anne Gordon on 23 July 1859. He was knighted and became Sir William, few months before his death. He died on the evening of Monday 19 November 1883, at nine o’clock. He was buried, in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.


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