The company was founded in 1891 by Gerard Philips, a maternal cousin of Karl Marx, in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Its first products were light bulbs and other electro-technical equipment. Its first factory survives as a museum devoted to light sculpture. In the 1920s, the company started to manufacture other products, such as vacuum tubes (also known worldwide as 'valves'), In 1927 they acquired the British electronic valve manufacturers Mullard and in 1932 the German tube manufacturer Valvo, both of which became subsidiaries. In 1939 they introduced their electric razor, the Philishave (marketed in the USA using the Norelco brand name).
Philips was also instrumental in the revival of the Stirling engine.
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