Emil Rathenau (1838 – 1915)

Emil Rathenau was the founder of one of the most influential German companies of the first half of the 20th century and the patron of the architect and designer Peter Behrens.

Rathenau was born, the son of a Jewish mercantile family, in Berlin, and while travelling abroad on business became aware of the possibilities of electrical technology. In 1881, with the support of bankers, he acquired the rights to manufacture in Germany the products patented in the United States by Thomas Edison.

In 1883 he formed Deutsche Edison-Gesellschaft fur angewandte Elektricitat (The German Edison company for practical electricity) that in 1887 became the Allegemeine Elektricitats-Gesellschaft, or AEG. Rathenau became general manager in 1903. In 1907 he was responsible for the appointment as artistic adviser to the company of Peter Behrens, who designed many innovative products, and was responsible for the building of the Turbinenfabrik in the Huttenstrasse in Berlin-Tiergarten and for other factory buildings in the city.