The Goldbergian Institute also offers extensive displays of the unusual ways in which Jews were involved in some of the most influential inventions of the twentieth century. Beginning with the field of aviation.
Otto Lilienthal, a German Jew, is listed in The Book of Firsts as the man who made history's first series of controlled glider flights, using a 44-pound machine of his own design, with a wing area of 150 square feet. Lilienthal made more than 2,000 powerless glider flights as he sought to develop theories on aero-dynamics. People thought he was crazy, but he persisted in his efforts. By shifting his body to alter the center of gravity, he learned to control the glider enough to make brief, but successful, flights. He soon considered powering his flight with a motor. Noting some of the people who had worked on flying, the Wright brothers termed Lilienthal among the "great missionaries of the flying cause" and one who with his "unquenchable enthusiasm" had "in-fected us" and had "transformed idle curiosity into the active zeal of workers."
It is interesting to note that when the Wright brothers started to build one of their first airplanes in 1901 they proceeded, they wrote, "with the shape of surface used by Lilienthal."
Lihenthal's place in aviation history is so important that The American Heritage History of Flight says his influence "can hardly be overestimated. He was the first to demonstrate beyond question that, with or without power, the air could support a man in winged flight."
The next museum exhibit is a model of a rigid airship or dirigible, of the kind made famous by the Hindenburg. We often call this 'aircraft a zep-pelin, after Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, but strictly speaking it should be called a schwarz, to honor its actual inventor.
The Austrian Jew David Schwarz was an engi-neer who in 1890 devised the idea for an airship with a gas-filled metal container to carry it aloft. He presented his plans to the minister of war of Austria, who turned the idea down for financial reasons. After Schwarz had constructed a prototype in Russia in 1892, his invention came to the atten-tion of the German government, which sent him a telegram with the go-ahead to begin production. When Schwarz received the good news he did what any overjoyed inventor might do at such a moment: he dropped dead in the street from shock.
The German government proceeded anyway, with Schwarz's widow in charge of the construction and used Schwarz's airship idea in many ironic ways. Between 1910 and 1914 they carried pas-sengers between several German cities - an innovation credited as the world's first airline. During World War 1, Germany used the dirigible to carry out reconnais-sance, supply its troops, and even drop bombs. Over fifty airship raids were made on England. In 1929, the Graf Zeppelin flew around the world. And the Nazis used the largest zeppelin of them all, the Hindenburg, for propaganda purposes.
Guglielmo Marconi is credited with being the in-ventor of radio, but his contribution could better be viewed as that of turning someone else's discovery of a physical principle into a commercially feasible in-strument. For the truth is that radio waves were dis-covered by a Gerznan with a Jewish connection whose work directly influenced Marconi.
Heinrich Rudolph Hertz was a scientist who in lab tests showed the way radio waves behave, based upon the known behavior of light. To carry out his work, he had to generate radio energy, transmit it, and de-tect it. To do this, he in effect invented radio. In fact, radio waves were first called "Hertzian waves" to honor him.
Marconi, of course, was the one who made Hertz's work practical. But, just as the Wright brothers were inspired by the work of Lilienthal, Marconi developed his first serious interest in radio because of Hertz.
Indeed, the development of television also stems from Hertz's discoveries, and he would no doubt have gone on to even greater feats, for he was well on his way to discovering X-rays when he died at the age of thirty-seven.
There has been some question about Hertz's Jewish-ness, since he was the son of a baptized Jew. But the Nazis had no doubts about Hertz's origins. When Hitler came to power in Germany, universities were ordered to stop using the word "hertz" to label a unit of physical measurement.
When the word "phonograph" is mentioned, do you first think of Thomas Edison? Well, you really should think of Emile Berliner, because he is the man who developed the modern day phonograph - along with the kind of records, recording studios, and record shops we have today.
Emile Berliner was brought to America from Ger-many by his parents at an early age and grew up in Washington, D.C. His father was a Talmudic scholar, but Emile was interested in science. While Edison was working out a type of phonograph that used a cylinder as a record, Berliner invented a machine that would play a disc. The machine he patented was called the gramophone, and the famous RCA trademark is a picture of a dog listening to "his master's voice" on Berliner's device.
The gramophone was superior to Edison's machine. Besides, Berliner saw the popular entertainment uses of a record player, while Edison did not. Edison saw the phonograph - which, by the way, was his favorite invention - as primarily for use in offices to record dictation. As a result of Berliner's foresight, his com-pany grew to dominate the field. The Berliner Gramo-phone Company introduced the idea of paying royal-ties to singers and other artists for exclusive recording contracts, produced and placed on the market a low--priced record player, and made the first shellac records in 1897. In the same year it opened in Philadelphia the first commercial recording studio and the first record shop-in adjoining buildings, so that what the studio produced the shop could sell.
In short, Emile Berliner made possible the modem record industry. His company was eventually absorbed, by the Victor Talking Machine Company, now known as RCA.
Our next Goldbergian Institute display is, a re-creation of Johann Philipp Reis exhibiting his tele-phone to scientists in Europe in 1861 - fifteen years before Bell patented his. Reis, a German Jew, is listed in The Book of Firsts as number one to publicly demonstrate the telephone.
Reis's original model used "a violin case for a resonator, a hollowed-out beer-barrel bung for a mouthpiece, and a stretched sausage-skin for a dia-phragm" in a crude attempt to copy the design of the human ear. He showed an improved model of this in a public demonstration before the Physical Society of Frankfurt on October 26, 1861, at which time he was able to transmit verses of a song over a three-hundred--foot line between the room he was in and a hospital.
Reis's instrument could not reproduce varying deg-rees of loudness, and he was unable to develop his work further. A sickly man, born of poor parents, he had neither the stamina nor the means to commer-cialize his invention. He died in 1874 at the age of forty, but his work was well known by that time. Alexander Graham Bell knew of his work, was even shown a Reis machine transmitter, and gave credit to Reis for his ideas. So did others trying to perfect a telephone-type invention, including Edison, who tinkered with Reis's approach. In fact, inventors were so hot in pursuit of a telephone that in 1876 when Bell finally did apply for a patent for his telephone he beat another inventor by only hours.
After Bell's patent was granted, he was accused by many of having stolen the idea. When Bell sought a British patent, several letters to the Times charged him with thievery from Reis. An article in Munsey's Magazine in 1900, "The Romance of the Telephone," charged Bell and his company with having cheated Reis and two other inventors out of their claims to the telephone. The United States government under President Grover Cleveland even brought suit against Bell for, according to one biographer, "claiming the invention of something already widely known to exist in the form of the Reis 'telephone' and also with somehow concealing the existence of the latter from the Patent Office's expert examiner in that field."
Bell survived the lawsuits and the challenges, but Reis has a special place in the history of the telephone. In Europe, he was recognized as its inventor, and a monument to his memory was built by physicists in 1878.
A Jew can also be found in the early history of the automobile - in fact, until the 1960s historians be-lieved the gasoline-driven engine was invented by a Jew. German-born Siegfried Marcus was said to have patented in 1864 a motorcar powered by an internal--combustion engine that drove it at four to five miles per hour. That vehicle is still in perfect running con-dition today.
The Book of Firsts reveals that the correct date for Marcus's invention was 1888, three years after Karl Benz of Mannheim, Germany, built the first car suc-cessfully powered by a gasoline engine in 1885. But Marcus' is still considered an important figure in the development of the automobile, and his contributions are credited in most histories of motoring.
Atomic energy, flight, broadcasting, recordings, communications, transportation - each
is an integral part of the modem age; and, incredibly, each has been brought about by the
help of Jews.
One very mundane reason is that, in these cases at least, the Jewish innovators died early. Hertz died at thirty-seven, Reis at forty. Lilienthal was killed at the peak of his career, and Schwarz died before his work had really begun. Only Berliner lived a full life of seventy-eight years, and he was the only one who reaped financial rewards during his lifetime. Also, for the most part these were men of humble beginnings, without the means or connections to bring their work to full fruition. Although Edison, Marconi, and Bell were not heavily financed at first, their later circum-stances were far more comfortable than those of their Jewish counterparts.
Since the days of the Bible, it seems that the lot of the Jew has been to make his contribution behind the scenes. Other nations have grown more prosper-ous and powerful; other religions have become more popular. But the Jewish people have helped those other nations and religions to grow and flower. The important thing is that the Jewish contribution is being made, the influence is being felt, and the Jewish people are making an impact far out of proportion to their numbers. (That's why new exhibits are con-stantly being added to the Goldbergian Institute.)