Lars Magnus Ericsson was born into a farming family and had to work hard to survive. Later in life he was to become world famous for his major contributions to the development of the telephone. Telephone company, Ericsson, currently has thousands of employees around the world.
Lars Magnus Ericsson (1846–1926) came from a family of farmers and was born in Värmland, Sweden. Five years at the village school taught him to read and write, which was his only formal education. Nevertheless, he constructed Sweden’s first telephone line at the age of 17.
The idea behind the telephone was simple: you speak into a membrane, which starts to vibrate and causes a pin to vibrate. These vibrations are then sent to the other telephone, via a power cable, where another pin and membrane begin vibrating and the receiver hears what is being said. German scientist, Johann Philipp Reis, had built such a telephone in1861. Lars Magnus had probably read about the miracle machine and wanted to build his own, thirteen years before Scotsman, Alexander Graham Bell, applied for the patent on his telephone apparatus.
Starting his business
At the age of twelve, Lars Magnus lost his father and had to start earning a living. He worked on the railways, in the mines and with blacksmiths. Lars Magnus was also a skilled engraver. After a while he moved to Stockholm and sought workshop employment. It wasn’t easy, as he had no education or grades. Eventually, luck was on his side when he showed one of his seals to the Öller & Co Telegraph workshop. He stayed for six years, learning much about telegraph equipment.
The workshop director, Öller, helped Lars Magnus to get the government travel grant for foreign studies. The 26-year-old Lars Magnus left Sweden and spent three years in Germany, Switzerland and Russia. After returning home in 1876, he wanted to start his own company and began his operation in a former kitchen no bigger than 13 square metres at Drottninggatan 15, in Stockholm.
The telephone era
In 1876 Swedish daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, wrote about “a telegraph that talks.” The following year, the first telephones appeared in Sweden, and Lars Magnus started receiving telephones for repair. Bell’s telephones were not patented in Sweden, so Lars Magnus improved Bell’s construction and made the telephone less clumsy. As early as 1878, Lars Magnus started selling his first telephones. In 1881, L M Ericsson & Co were appointed main supplier to the newly established Telephone Association in Gävle, Sweden. The telephones that Ericsson & Co produced were better and cheaper than Bell’s. Other cities followed suit and the first foreign orders came from Bergen in Norway. Soon, L.M. Ericsson’s company had 50 employees.
Telephone networks began to grow and more telephone exchanges were required. Lars Magnus started cooperating with Henrik T. Cedergren, who had also started his own telephone company, Stockholms Allmämma Telefonaktiebolag. Lars Magnus improved several foreign patents and constructed an automated switchboard that could handle ten telephone lines. He also improved the telephone handset, which had both a microphone and a speaker in contrast to earlier telephone models.
At the start of the 20th century, L M Ericsson & Co had almost 1,000 employees and was producing 50,000 telephones a year. Ericsson established subsidiaries in both Russia and Poland and manufactured telephones in St. Petersburg. Today Ericsson is a huge international corporation and part of the global telephone industry.
In 1900, Lars Magnus Ericsson decided to leave the company. He withdrew to live on the Alby farm and subsequently on the Hågelby farm in Botkyrka, Sweden until his death.