Ferdinand Graf von ZeppelinBiography
Count Zeppelin first developed an interest in technology and inventions at the age of 52. After completing a military career, he rapidly became a visionary in his time.
In addition to a wealth of innovative technical ideas, he had the gift of being able to persuade people to support what were then adventurous projects – even after encountering setbacks.
"Prominent personalities of the time, including Claude Dornier, Karl Maybach, Alfred Colsman, Hugo Eckener and Alfred Graf von Soden-Fraunhofen, came to Friedrichshafen to work with Zeppelin. The city of Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance became an important focus of technology. On 2 July 1900, the initial test flight of first airship, the LZ 1, was launched near Manzell on Lake Constance, not far from Friedrichshafen. Zeppelin and his employees refined the technology and two more airships were later developed and scrapped. The Count suffered a major blow in 1908. Following an emergency landing in Echterdingen near Stuttgart, airship LZ 4 was destroyed in a fire.
By this time, the airships had generated immense public interest. Following the accident, funds were collected all over Germany to enable Zeppelin to continue working on the “Giants of the Air.” Incredibly, a total of nearly 6 million reichmarks was collected –which the Count used to finance his business plans. Zeppelin and his engineers knew that the airship needed technological components, including powerful lightweight engines, light gases, advanced materials, optimized transmissions. This technology was highly for the time and would play a key role in later developments. However, there were practically no suppliers. So Zeppelin launched a series of new companies. After setting up an organization to administer the collected funds, the Zeppelin Foundation – which would later spawn the ZF Group – he established “Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH” in 1908.
More companies followed in the next seven years. The successor companies that still exist in Friedrichshafen and many other start-ups originate from this period. The gearwheel factory, or “Zahnradfabrik” opened in 1915. The gearwheels and transmissions, precision-manufactured according to a new patent, were designed to deliver optimal power transfer between engines and propellers in the Zeppelin airships. The ZF Group is the largest company to evolve from the Zeppelin heritage. Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin had become a world-famous personality. Following an operation, he died in Berlin at the age of 79 on March 8, 1917."