Werner von Siemens was born on December 13, 1816, the fourth of fourteen children. At the age of just 19, he joins the Prussian army and thus gains access to training at the artillery and engineering school in Berlin. Here he acquires the knowledge for his later electrical engineering developments.
In 1847, Siemens designed a precision pointer telegraph for the military and, in the same year, founded the "Telegraphen Bau-Anstalt Siemens & Halske" together with the mechanic Johann Georg Halske. Just one year later, the young company sets up the telegraph line from Berlin to the German National Assembly in Frankfurt. This made the company so well known that international orders followed.
When Werner von Siemens discovers the "dynamoelectric principle" in 1866 and builds his first dynamo machine, he immediately recognizes the importance of electrical energy and looks for practical applications. During the construction of his electrically powered railroad, presented at the Berlin Industrial Exhibition in 1879, it occurred to him that it should also be possible to build elevators with electric drives. Until then, elevators had been driven hydraulically, but this was very complicated and expensive.
In April 1880, Werner von Siemens receives a letter from the "Central-Comité" of the "Gewerbliche & Landwirtschaftliche Ausstellung des Pfalzgaus zu Mannheim" with the request to provide an electric elevator for the duration of the exhibition. Siemens agreed and began with the construction.
A platform surrounded on three sides by grids is raised by a 3 hp DC motor mounted underneath via a gear train at a speed of half a meter per second.
The elevator mounted on the 20-meter-high observation tower of the main customs office becomes the sensation of the Pfalzgau exhibition located between the castle and the park ring. More than 8,000 visitors let themselves be transported by the electric elevator for 20 pfennigs and enjoy a view over Mannheim.
Dr. Werner Siemens, who had in the meantime been appointed a privy councillor, introduced his lecture to the "Electrotechnical Association" on October 26, 1880, with the words: "The transmission of power by dynamo-electric machines has found a new application in the elevator for persons exhibited by the Siemens company & Halske in Mannheim, which promises to be of great importance."
In fact, it was the electric elevator that made the construction of high-rise buildings and the triumph of skyscrapers possible.