Gerard Leonard Frederik Philips


The Philips Company of the Netherlands had its origin in the year 1891. A brief accounting of this event is taken here from Bowers4:

"The electric lighting market in Europe in the 1890s was dominated by three companies: the German firms of AEG and Siemens & Halske and the Dutch firm of Philips, founded by Gerard Philips (1858-1942). He had graduated in mechanical engineering from Delft University in 1883 and taken a post in a shipyard in Glasgow. There he came into contact with electric lighting and obtained a research position at Glasgow University under Sir William Thomson. Subsequently he worked for a short time for the Brush company in London and then for AEG in Berlin. Having gained considerable experience in electrical engineering, he decided to set up his own electric lamp factory, although there were already four such factories in the Netherlands. In partnership with his father Frederik (1830-1900), he bought a factory in the small industrial town of Eindhoven and was soon producing 500 carbon filament lamps a day."

Those persons who are interested in a more detailed accounting of the life of Philps should consult the excellent volumes written by Heerding2, 3. These are available in the Dutch and English languages.

Gerard Philips was born in 1858 in Zalthommel, The Netherlands. At first he studied civil engineering and, later, mechanical engineering, in Delft. In 1883 Philips travelled to Glasgow, Scotland, to supervise the installation of an electric lighting system on a ship for the Zeeland Shipping Company. Then he spent nearly a year in a laboratory that was directed by the physicist William Thomson, known later by the name of Lord Kelvin.

Philips was invited by the director of the Brush Electrical Company to travel to Berlin to evaluate that location for Brush products. After that he travelled back to England.

It was Emil Rathenau, director of A. E. G. (Allgemeine Elektrizitätsgesellschaft), who appointed Philips to be the agent for A. E. G. in Amsterdam. Although Philips took the job he did not remain long in that position.

At age 32 Gerard Philips utilized his experience at the Brush Works to begin work on making a uniform cellulose carbon filament. As was rather common in the early days of the incandescent lamp, Philips set up a laboratory in a wash-house in his parents garden. Eventually he developed a filament that he considered satisfactory and he then sought a works manager. This resulted in the hiring of E. Woschke, who had experience in a small factory in Brussels.

The firm of Philips & Company was established on 15 May 1891. Woschke moved from Brussels to Eindhoven and the new firm was at the start of becoming one of world-wide importance.

Note: The photograph of Philips shown above was scanned from Ref. 2, page 61.

References and Bibliography
1) N. A. Halbertsma, "The Birth of a Lamp Factory in 1891," Philips Technical Review, Vol 23, No 8/9, 1961/1962, pp 222-236.
2) A. Heerding, The History of N. V. Philips' Gloeilampenfabrieken, Vol 1, The Origin of the Dutch Incandescent Lamp Industry, Cambridge University Press, London, English translation, 1985.
3) A. Heerding, The History of N. V. Philips' Gloeilampenfabrieken, Vol 2, A Company of Many Parts, Cambridge University Press, London, English translation, 1988.
4) Brian Bowers, Lengthening the Day - A History of Lighting Technology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.

Gerard Philips experimenting in his home-made laboratory at Zalthommel in 18901.