Paul Julius, Baron von Reuter was born Israel Beer Josaphat on July 21, 1816 in Kassel, Germany. He was an entrepreneur, journalist and media owner. More importantly, Reuter went on to become a trailblazer in the world of news reporting and telegraphy, eventually founding the Reuters news agency.
Reuter was born to Betty Sanders and Samuel Levi Josaphat, a local rabbi. He spent his younger years working as a clerk in his uncle’s bank in Göttingen. During his time in Göttingen he managed to make the acquaintance of Carl Friedrich Gauss, a prominent mathematician and physicist who was at that time experimenting with the electric telegraph.
In October of 1845, he moved to London where he began using the name Joseph Josaphat. Later that same year, he converted to Christianity, and in a ceremony at St. George’s German Lutheran Chapel, he took the Christian name Paul Julius Reuter.
Just one week later, Paul returned to Berlin where he married Ida Maria Elizabeth Clemetine Magnus. He joined a Berlin-based book publishing firm, and in 1847, he became a partner with Reuter and Stargardt. As Germany tumbled into the Revolution of 1848, however, the firm became involved in publishing and distributing radical pamphlets which brought Reuter under official scrutiny.
After arousing the hostility of German authorities, Reuter took refuge in Paris, where he began working with the news agency of Charles-Louis Havas (which would eventually become Agence France Presse). He soon founded the Reuters News Agency in Aachen, and began sending news excerpts between France and Germany using a system of carrier pigeons.
Since telegraphy was still being developed, Reuter had one of the fastest sources of news available. The carrier pigeons were considerably faster than the post train, so Reuter was able to capitalize on stock news from the Paris stock exchange before most others got the latest news. He also began translating bits and pieces of news from France and sending the articles on to newspapers in Germany via his pigeons.
In 1851, Reuter returned to England and opened a telegraph office not far from the London Stock Exchange. Initially, he dealt primarily with commercial exchanges; however, as the popularity of daily newspapers grew, Reuter was able to sign on a number of publishers as well. His first major breakthrough in the industry came in 1859 when he was able to transmit a speech by Napoleon III preceding the Austro-French Piedmontese war in Italy.
Competition grew as other news agencies fought to keep up with Reuter’s telegraph techniques. Undersea cables allowed Reuter to further his network to other continents, and eventually, Reuter was obligated to agree on a division of territory with his two main rivals, Havas in France and Wolff in Germany. These three agencies maintained an effective monopoly over the world press for many years.
Reuter became a naturalized British subject in 1857, and was eventually granted baronies by both the German Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Queen Victoria of England. Reuter passed away in February of 1899; however, his news agency is still going strong today. In fact, on February 25, 1999, the Reuters News Agency honored its founder by establishing the Paul Julius Reuter Innovation Award.