Robert Bosch (23 September 1861 – 12 March 1942) was a German industrialist, engineer and inventor, founder of Robert Bosch GmbH. Bosch was born in Albeck, a village to the northeast of Ulm in southern Germany. His father, a freemason, was unusually well-educated for someone of his class, and placed special importance on a good education for his children. As a child, Robert liked to try and invent, he would fuss with little electronic or mechanical toys and make something different out of them. He saw potential for himself to become an inventor and later studied quantum mechanics.
From 1869 to 1876, Bosch attended the Realschule (secondary-technical school) in Ulm, and then took an apprenticeship as a precision mechanic. After his school and practical education, Bosch spent a further seven years working at diverse companies in Germany, the United States (for Thomas Edison in New York), and the UK (for the German firm Siemens). On 15 November 1886, he opened his own 'Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering' in Stuttgart.
A year later, he made a decisive improvement to an unpatented magneto ignition device made by the engine manufacturer Deutz, providing his first business success. The purpose of the device was to generate an electric spark to ignite the air/fuel mixture in a stationary engine. In 1897, Bosch was the first to adapt a magneto to a vehicle engine. In doing so, he solved one of the greatest technical problems faced by the nascent automotive industry. The invention of the first commercially viable high-voltage spark plug as part of a magneto-based ignition system by Robert Bosch's engineer Gottlob Honold in 1902 greatly enhanced the development of the internal combustion engine.
From the beginning, Bosch was greatly concerned about promoting occupational training. Prompted by his awareness of social responsibility, he was one of the first industrialists in Germany to introduce the eight-hour work day, followed by other social benefits for his associates. Robert Bosch did not wish to profit from the armaments contracts awarded to his company during WWI. Instead, he donated several million German marks to charitable causes. A hospital that he gave to the city of Stuttgart opened in 1940.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Robert Bosch was politically active. As a liberal businessman, he sat on a number of economic committees. He devoted a great deal of energy and money to the cause of bringing about reconciliation between Germany and France. He hoped this reconciliation would bring about lasting peace in Europe, and lead to the creation of a European economic area.
Robert Bosch was keenly interested in agricultural issues, and owned a farm south of Munich. He was also a passionate hunter. He died in 1942. In 1937, Robert Bosch had restructured his company as a private limited company (close corporation). He had established his last will and testament, in which he stipulated that the earnings of the company should be allocated to charitable causes. At the same time, his will sketched the outlines of the corporate constitution which was formulated by his successors in 1964 and is still valid today.
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