Oskar von Miller (1855–1934)

Oskar von Miller was a talented Bavarian electrical engineer who is best known as the founder of the Deutsches Museum in Munich. He was a member of a wealthy family and was admitted in 1875 to the Bavarian hereditary nobility. He studied technology at university and took a particular interest in the generation and transmission of electric current.

In 1882 he organised the first exhibition on electricity in Germany, having been inspired by a similar exhibition that he saw in Paris. The following year, with Emil Rathenau (1838-1913) he became a director of the Edison corporation in Germany. In 1884 he was responsible for building a power station in Munich, and made important contributions to the development of technology for transmitting electric power over long distances. Between 1918 and 1924 he was project manager during the construction of the huge Walchensee hydro-electric power station which made possible the electrification of large parts of the Bavarian railway system.

He founded the Deutsches Museum in 1903 at a meeting of the Verein Deutscher Ingenieure (VDI – German Engineers’ Association) at which he was supported by other leading German scientists and industrialists including Emil Rathenau, Carl von Linde (1842-1934) and Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen (1845-1923). The foundation stone of the museum was laid on an island in the River Isar at Munich in 1906, but it was not until 1925 that the first galleries opened and the library was not completed until 1932. In spite of many setbacks during its history, the museum has achieved Miller’s objective of creating in Germany collections that are the equal of the equivalent institutions in London, Paris and Washington DC. Miller died during a visit to the museum.