Many engineers, inventors and laymen have contributed to the invention and development of the maglev system. 
When it comes to the question who originally invented the concept of magnetic levitation for transportation purposes, the names of Hermann Kemper and Emile Bachelet are quoted most often.


Hermann Kemper 

*1892, †1977

Hermann Kemper (* April 5, 1892 Nortrup, Germany, in the district of Osnabrueck, † July 13, 1977) was a German engineer and is considered by many the inventor of the basic maglev concept. 

In 1922, Hermann Kemper began his research about magnetic levitation. It took him until 1933, when he succeeded in working out at technical concept for a floating vehicle, based on the principle of electromagnetic attraction. He applied for a patent, then at the “Reichspatentamt” in Berlin. He received it in 1934, under the patent number 643316. In the patent text, his invention was described as a “monorail vehicle with no wheels attached”, that is kept floating by means of magnetic fields. 

Hermann Kemper’s invention laid the foundations for further technological progress in this field, which ultimately led to the development of the Transrapid system (Germany) and the Linear Motor Car (Japan) – two different technological approaches based on the same basic principle of attracting and repulsing magnetic fields. 

For his scientific achievements Hermann Kemper was awarded the great Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, in 1972.

Patent Title: 
KEMPER, HERMANN: "Schwebebahn mit Räderlosen Fahrzeugen, die an eisernen Fahrschienen mittels magnetischer Felder entlang schwebend geführt werden. Deutsches Reichspatent Nr. 643316, 1934."

Hermann Kemper - German Technical Museum


pdf-file in German language (external link)


Emile Bachelet

In 1914, the French-born American inventor Emile Bachelet presented his idea of a maglev vehicle and even displayed a first model. A report in the Swiss journal "Schwizer Familie" in the year 1914 shows a photograph of this event and provides some information about his project vision, as well as the model.

Source: "Schwizer Familie" No. 35, June 27, 1914.


Emile Bachelet, 1914, with his maglev model. Source: "Schwizer Familie" No. 35, June 27, 1914.


A patent for a ''levitating transmitting apparatus''

Emile Bachelet was born in France in 1863. He emigrated in the 1880s to the United States where he worked as an electrician. In this activity he discovered some therapeutic applications of electro-magnets to cure rheumatism and relieve arthritic pain. 

After starting in the 1890s to commercially exploit related medical devices for which he was granted several patents, he began work on magnetic forces through electro-magnets. It is easy to understand what is involved by thinking of what can be done with natural magnets: when the north pole of a magnet faces the south pole of another magnet an attraction force is created; in reverse, a magnetic repulsion is obtained by opposing two north poles or two south poles. Electro-magnets, according to the intensity of the current and turning on and off at the desired frequency, allow the creation and control of a powerful magnetic force.

In March 1912, Bachelet obtained a patent for a “levitating transmitting apparatus” from the United States Patent Office (patent no. 1,020,942). The invention is described as a machine to transfer bodies at a very high speed from one point to another. 

Although it was primarily meant for the transmission of mail and small packages by a carrier, it was easy to imagine its application at a larger scale in trains carrying freight or passengers. 

Using the forces of magnetic attraction and repulsion, Bachelet explained in detail how to arrange the magnets, with their poles, on a pathway and on the carrier and how to energise them (periodically) so as to create magnetic fields and allow the carrier to move through these fields. A first magnetic field is designed to levitate the carrier, which is made of a non-magnetic metal but which hold its own set of magnets that react with the magnetic field of the pathway. It then “floats” in the air and can be propelled like a plane without mechanical friction. Another magnetic field is used to make the carrier move along with another series of magnets that are activated to attract other magnets on board the carrier (the repulsion/attraction pushing the carrier forward) while it is levitated (although this propulsion could also be obtained by classical means). Finally, the guidance of the carrier along the pathway can also be controlled using a third magnetic field.


US Patent of Emile Bachelet, 1912


Too far ahead of his time?

Bachelet was quite successful as early as 1914 with a prototype in an exhibition in London and managed to attract financial support to continue his research until his death in 1946. This invention is one of the premier and fundamental predecessors of the technologies surrounding modern electromagnetically levitated trains (or so-called ‘Maglev’ trains for ‘magnetic levitation’).

Bachelet was probably too far ahead of his time. Although the patent described details such as how to savae electricity by activating the magnets just before the passage of the train and cut the current after it has passed, it should be recalled that, at that time, the development of electric locomotives functioning on a reliable and powerful source of electricity to propel real commercial freight or passenger trains that would later overcome steam locomotivs had not even begun. In addition, the system required, and still requires nowadays, the construction of a specific network. Nevertheless, Bachelet’s invention undoubtedly paved the way for modern maglev trains, like the Chinese Transrapid of Shanghai or the Japanese Linimo of Aichi.

(Biography info based on, 4. 2009).


IPR Bulletin

N. 37, January - March 2008


Emile Bachelet - Inventor from Mount Vernon, New York

by Janet Bower


Emile Bachelet’s patent (US 1,020,942) on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Boris Petrovich Weinberg (Вейнберг, Борис Петрович), Russia

He was born in St. Petersburg province . From childhood he was interested in physics. He graduated from the Physics and Mathematics Faculty of St. Petersburg University in 1893. In 1909 he moved to Tomsk , headed the Department of Physics at the Tomsk Institute of Technology (1909-1924).

 In 1913 the experimental model of a vacuum train was created. A year later he spoke in St. Petersburg with a lecture in which he proposed a vacuum transport project that makes use of magnetic suspension technolgies.

He died in World War II in the besieged city of Leningrad from hunger, is buried in a common grave, the exact place of burial is unknown.