Subscribe to e-news

Social networks


This project is funded by the European Commission. The content is the responsibility of the author and in no way represents the views of the European Commission.

LIEBEN, Robert von

* 5. 9. 1878, Vienna, Austria
† 20. 2. 1913, Vienna, Austria

Physicist, entrepreneur

L. was born into an old Austrian family of bankers and scientists and grew up in a cultured atmosphere of Vienna's high classes. His father Leopold (1835-1915, in 1877 acquired the noble title) was a board member of the Austro-Hungarian Bank, President of the Vienna board of trade (1911-1915) and Chairman of the board of the Theresienthaler AG paper factory. Together with his brother Richard he managed the bank Liebe & Co, which was founded in Vienna in 1862. His mother Anna, born of the Viennese Todesco dynasty, was a daughter of a banker. L’s uncle Adolf L. was an acknowledged chemist.
Being financially secured and with little enthusiasm for learning in the strict school system, L. had to be, after leaving academic grammar school in Vienna, satisfied with only a final examination at non-classical secondary school. However, he was a self-taught person and he carried out physical and chemical experiments, while he would already as a teenager install electric lighting in his parents' estate in Hinterbrühl in Mödling, which received power from a nearby Höldrich mill.
Upon completion of schooling, the young L. enrolled in the Austro-Hungarian Lancers regiment as a volunteer but was only weeks later discharged after he fell off his horse and was severely injured. He gained practical experience in electrical engineering as a voluntary worker in the Siemens-Schuckert workshop in Nürnberg.
Because he did not graduate, L. attended classes on physics at the University of Vienna. Among other things he attended Franz Exners’ seminar in the field of experimental physics. From the spring of 1899 L. spent about a year with Walter Nernst at the Institute for physical chemistry at the University of Göttingen, where he received a number of initiatives and also became a good friend with Nernst. Upon his return to Vienna he on his own funded a laboratory there and collaborated with technicians Eugen Reiß and Siegmund Strauß - both later dealt with the radio industry.
During this time L. was dealing with an electromagnetic clutch for automobiles, he was trying to improve Wright brothers' aircraft design which he received in Paris and subsequently left it to the Austrian army, while he also developed the apparatus for photographing an eye. He continued dealing with issues concerning physics and chemistry, particularly with at the time in Vienna a highly controversial area of atomics. He also tried experimenting with the Reichenbach’s precept on auras.
After Arthur Rudolf Wehnelt in 1903 demonstrated deflection of cathode-ray beams through magnetic and electrostatic fields, L. conducted his own experiments in this field and in the same year published the results in the Physics journal. The experience he had with the electrical discharge of gases in general and particularly in the cathode-ray beams also proved convenient in 1905, when he began to engage in the development of a telephone amplifier via a cathode beam. After purchasing a telephone factory in Olomouc (1904/05), where L. in practice realized that it was not yet possible to establish a satisfactory telephone network by reducing the voltage of electricity, he began to deal with the principles of reproductive sounds. In 1906 he applied for a first patent for his cathode-beam relay: he patented the ability of a magnetic field to deflect an electron ray. The second patent followed in 1910, when he improved the design with electrostatic control and its complementary patent (both together with Reiß and Strauß). The so-called L’s amplifier tubes were revolutionary in the introduction of phones, but its real significance was obtained primarily by the use of radio technology. In 1912 a consortium of companies AEG, Siemens & Halske, Telefunken and Felten & Guilleaume took over the further development and application of L’s inventions. His effort was overshadowed by the dispute over the primacy of the patent with an American Lee de Forest. L. died the following year, without seeing the success of his efforts.
Despite his individualistic tendencies, L. was known as a communicative person who discussed the results of his experiments with a circle of like-minded people. In accordance with the social habits of his father he often organized scientific symposia in his house. In 1911 he married the daughter of the Viennese merchant, an actress Anna Schindler, aunt of the Austrian poet Julius von der Traun, who was for some time active in the Vienna city theatre. They did not have children, because shortly after the wedding they found out that L. had a tumour in his chest, while even the prompt treatment with X-rays was not helpful.
The obituaries of various personalities, such as Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Walter Nernst, testify about his relationship with the world.

24. 05. 2011 - Opening of CESA in Košice

On 25th May, 2011 we will open the Central European Science Adventure in Slovak Technical Museum in Košice. The game will be accessible for school groups till 30th June. For more info ...

More >>

20. 04. 2011 - Opening of CESA in Budapest

On 4th May, 2011 we will open the Central European Science Adventure in Magyar Műszaki és Közlekedési Múzeum in Budapest. The game will be accessible for school groups ...

More >>

Izdelava spletnih strani:  Positiva