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Library of Congress Program Honors Emile Berliner

His inventions paved the way for the recording industry

The life and times of German-born inventor Emile Berliner will be the subject of an event hosted by the Library of Congress.

Berliner is best known for improving early versions of the microphone and developing the flat recording disc (“gramophone record”), helping pave the way for the recording industry.

Born in Hanover, Germany in 1851, Berliner emigrated from home and took residence in Washington, D.C., in 1870. Becoming interested in new developments in audio technology of the day, he experimented with methods of recording sound and was granted a patent for the gramophone in 1887.

He worked throughout his life, later inventing a six horsepower rotary engine that led to the development of helicopters, demonstrating a working prototype for the U.S. Army in 1922. Berliner died of a heart attack in 1929; he is buried in Washington’s Rock Creek Cemetery with others in his family.

His life and legacy as a Washington resident will be discussed by Samuel Brylawski, coordinator and editor of the Victor Records Discography at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and Karen Lund, digital project coordinator in the Library’s Music Division and developer of the Emile Berliner online presentation on the Library’s American Memory website.

The event will take place Tuesday May 17 in the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room, Room 220 of the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E. It is sponsored by the Hebraic Section of the Library’s African Middle Eastern Division and the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Admission is free and the event is open to the public, though seating is limited.