Lars Magnus Ericsson (1846–1926)

The telecommunications company Ericsson is world famous today. It was founded in 1876 by the inventor and entrepreneur Lars Magnus Ericsson.

Ericsson grew up on a small farm in central Sweden. His father died when he was 12 and from the age of 14 he worked as a labourer on a nearby farm. The next year he left home to work with an iron-mine prospector, then progressed to an apprenticeship with an ironmonger and other jobs related to ironworking. In 1867 he went to Stockholm and found a job with Ollers and Company, which produced telegraph equipment. He was awarded a government scholarship to study instrument-making abroad from 1872 to 1875: he joined Siemens and Halske in Berlin, then worked in Munich, Bern, Magdeburg and Neuchatel before returning home.

He opened his own engineering shop in Stockholm in 1876 with his friend Carl Johan Andersson. Their first business was to repair telegraph equipment but then Ericsson brought his expertise as a designer to study the telephones made by Bell and by Siemens and invent new solutions of his own. In 1881, they won the contract to provide equipment to Telegrafverket, the Swedish national telephone system. In the next five years they connected 64 of the country’s 93 towns and cities. In 1883 they went into business with Henrik Thor Cedergen, who owned the telephone company Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag (SAT). Widely recognised for the high quality of their products, they expanded internationally. They opened factories in London, New York and St Petersburg and further offices in Shanghai and Mexico City. They also sold in Denmark, Norway, Australia and New Zealand.

Ericsson believed in training his workforce and developing talented individuals. His company was also known for good working conditions, including free medical care. His wife Hilda Simonsson, whom he married in 1878, took a close interest in the business and contributed to its success.

He stepped down as President of the company in 1901 and sold his shares four years later. He concentrated in his retirement on developing a farm outside Stockholm with electricity and mechanisation.