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Throwback Thursday - Robert Bosch

Throwback Thursday - Robert Bosch
By Bill Dickson September 10, 2015 8874 Views

He’s a man who created and launched a company that continues not only to serve European needs, but also serves the needs of people all across the globe. In the mid-late 1880s, he almost went bankrupt and to let go of all of his staff except for two people. While many would have thrown in the towel, he rallied and went on to grow his company into the one of the largest and most successful companies in the world. This week on Throwback Thursday, we look at the history of Robert Bosch, the founder and owner of the Bosch Corporation.

Tinkering At a Young Age

Robert Bosch was born in Albeck, Germany on September 23, 1861. He was the 11th of 12 children. He was born to a family of farmers, but his father encouraged all of his children to become well educated. His family eventually moved to Ulm. At a young age, Robert was fascinated with electric or mechanical toys. He would take them apart and turn them into something different. That was when he knew he wanted to be an inventor. After seeing the potential in himself, he began to study quantum physics.

Photo Courtesy of Bosch Corporation

From 1869 to 1876, Bosch went to school at Realschule, a secondary technical school and eventually took an apprenticeship as a precision mechanic.

An Education Abroad and the Company Takes Off

Photo Courtesy of the Bosch Corporation

After his general education was completed, Bosch went to work for different countries across the world. He started in his native Germany, the United Kingdom and then worked with Thomas Edison in the United States.

After learning everything he could from his stops, Bosch started his company, “Workshops for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering" in 1886. He struggled at first and he was forced to lay off a lot of his staff. A year later, Bosch’s company finally had a breakthrough.

In 1887, he created a magneto device that provided a spark to ignite an air-fuel mixture in an engine. 10 years later, he transferred his idea into a vehicle.

Photo Courtesy of the Bosch Corporation

Along with famous German engineer Gottlob Honold, the Bosch Corporation combined the high voltage spark plug with the magneto based ignition system in 1902. This contributed to the development of modern motor vehicle. He also built his first factory in Stuttgart in 1901.

Photo Courtesy of the Bosch Corporation

Bosch was determined to expand outside his country and opened offices in Great Britain and the United States throughout the 1900s. After 1910, other facilities were constructed in Australia, Asia and Africa. Eventually, 88% of sales came from outside of Germany…making them a very profitable company.

The Humanitarian

As a wealthy industrialist, Bosch advocated for labor reform and treated his workers fairly well. He was the first in Germany to institute an eight hour workday, provided high wages and other benefits. During the First World War, his company did have armaments deals with the German government, but he refused to profit from them. In fact, he converted his own factory in Stuttgart into a war hospital.

Photo Courtesy of the Bosch Corporation

Instead, he donated several million deutschmarks to charitable causes. One of his noblest acts was to create the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart…which is still in use today.

Photo Courtesy of the Bosch Corporation

After World War I, he attempted to broker a lasting peace between France and Germany and he donated both time and money to the cause. He believed if a lasting peace occurred, both could become world economic powers…providing a better life for both country’s inhabitants. Sadly, it was never to be.

Plans for the Future

Photo Courtesy of the Bosch Corporation

In 1937, Robert Bosch began to create plans on the how the company should be run in the future. He turned Bosch into a closed corporation and established a last will and testament. He said that company earnings should be directed towards charitable causes. He then sketched a corporate constitution…that the company still follows today.

Photo Courtesy of the Bosch Corporation

Robert Bosch died in 1942, due to complications from ear inflammation. He was 80-years-old. Despite wanting a private affair, the Bosch family was overruled by the Third Reich who insisted on a state funeral. The funeral was held on March 18th as church bells all over Stuttgart rang out to salute Bosch and his contributions to the world.

While Bosch achieved great success in his life, he still believed it was important to treat people with class and dignity. One of his most famous quotes was, “I would rather lose money than trust.” Bosch had the trust of many and it’s that philosophy that continues to inspire the Bosch Corporation today.

Photo Courtesy of Tool Britannia