Emil Škoda (1839 – 1900)

Emil Skoda was one of the engineers who laid the foundations for the prosperity of heavy industry in the Czech lands in the early twentieth century.

He was born, the son of a physician who was active in politics, in Pilsen (Plzeň) in western Bohemia, then part of the Habsburg Empire, and studied engineering at Prague and Karlsruhe. In 1866 Skoda was appointed chief engineer at an engineering work at Pilsen established in 1859 by Ernst Fürst von Waldstein-Wartenburg, which then had about 100 workers. He bought the factory in 1869 after which it rapidly expanded. A rail connection was installed, and in 1886 a steel plant was inaugurated with open hearth furnaces providing mild steel and crucible furnaces producing special steels, as well as a steel foundry. The Skoda company was incorporated in 1899 shortly before the death of its founder. The works made locomotives, machine tools and turbines, as well as large forgings for distant shipbuilders, pipes for the power plant at Niagara Falls and sluices for the Suez Canal. Skoda became one of the principal suppliers of armaments to the Imperial armed forces, manufacturing machines guns and mountain artillery for the army, and heavy guns for the navy. The capacity of the works was greatly increased during the First World War after which it was purchased by Schneider et Cie from Le Creusot.

In 1924 the company took over the car manufacturer Laurin-Klement, and Skoda cars achieved much success in the years that followed. The history of the company during the Second World War and subsequently is complex. It retains its identity but car manufacturing has been separated from the heavy engineering company.