gerard philips

Philips 130 years: standing on the shoulders of Gerard Philips

This month we celebrate the 130th anniversary of Philips with a salute to Dr. Ir. Gerard L.F. Philips (1858-1942), founder of our company and one of the great European pioneers of the Second Industrial Revolution.


Gerard Philips knew what he was doing when he began producing incandescent light bulbs in a vacant factory in Eindhoven - which is now the location of the Philips Museum. Already at a young age he was fascinated by the opportunities of electrical engineering. In high school one of his tutors was Hendrik Lorenz, an eminent Dutch physicist and later Nobel Prize winner.

Gerard Philips

After graduation in Delft as a mechanical engineer, Gerard followed a course in ‘Electric lighting and transmission power’ at the University of Glasgow. At this university he was offered a position in the 1886-1887 Research Group under supervision of Sir William Thomson, who later became Lord Kelvin. After that, he gained his first experience in business, first in London at the Anglo-American Brush Electric Light Corporation and later in Berlin as an employee of the Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG).


Besides being highly educated, Gerard Philips had a hunger for entrepreneurship. Together with his father Frederik he developed a business plan that distinguished itself from other manufacturers. Gerard saw a competitive advantage by focusing on the optimal manufacturing technique for a single product: the carbon-filament lamp. For other companies, light bulbs were just a part of a larger range of electronic products. Not so for Gerard, he even purchased semi-finished products such as glass bulbs and lamp fittings from third parties.


His approach was highly successful. Within ten years after the founding of Philips on May 15, 1891, it was a formidable competitor for industrial giants such as Siemens & Halske, AEG and General Electric. Throughout his working life Gerard Philips continued his involvement with the quality of manufacturing processes. His adage was: ‘When the quality is there, the quantity comes naturally’.

Gerard Philips

Gerard had a strong conviction that scientific research was a precondition for innovation and thus for the continuity of the company. He founded Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium (Philips Research) in 1914. Philips Research was instrumental in broadening the product portfolio of the company beyond lighting. With R&D in radio and X-ray tubes Philips entered the market of consumer electronics and healthcare. By doing so, Gerard Philips laid the foundation for countless innovations that have improved the lives of people worldwide.


Both Gerard and his younger brother Anton - who joined the company's sales department in 1895 - saw the importance of corporate social responsibility. Around 1900, Philips was one of the first companies with free healthcare insurance and payment for sick leave. Employees were also offered good housing through the construction of Philips owned homes. In 1913, part of the proceeds from the company's IPO was spent on a pension fund. Illustrative of the importance Gerard Philips placed in good education was the foundation of a study fund for employees' children. Thousands of students have benefited from this.


When Gerard stepped down in 1922, he left his brother Anton - who already held a position as equal director since 1912 - a well organized innovative company with a solid financial base, ready for the next phase of expansion. For us, in 2021, Gerard Philips’ passion for innovation and entrepreneurship remain a source of inspiration. And above all, we are grateful for the core values he has left to Philips as a company.



The Philips Museum is accessible for wheelchair and mobility scooter

Guide dogs allowed

Kidsproof 2019


Philips Museum
Emmasingel 31

5611 AZ Eindhoven

+31 (0)40 235 90 30

reachable monday - sunday 9:00 - 17:30


reachable monday - friday 9:00 - 17:30

You are about to visit a Philips global content page


You are about to visit the Philips USA website.

I understand

Our site can best be viewed with the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Firefox.