Oskar Erich Peter was born in 1898 in Berlin, Germany. During World War I he served as fighter pilot in the German Air Force. Surviving air battles and crashes, Peter developed a willingness to take risks, and faith in the future. After the war, Peter finished mechanical engineering studies and began work for aeronautics and automotive firms. A practical engineer and restless worker, he invented, built, tested, and marketed many components. When he lacked the funds to successfully invest, he found companies and individuals to sustain his inventions financially.
Peter's family then endured another World War, the Nazi regime, and the post-war era. Peter grew fond of saying, “There is a time for everything in life: For summer, for winter, for joy, and for pain.” During this time, he invented a pencil sharpener, motorcycles, motorcycle sidecars, car bumpers, drilling equipment, and various airplane-related components. But his most successful invention came in 1948.
While reading an airplane magazine, he stumbled across an article on tapered spring rings used as shock-absorbing elements on landing gears. An idea formed in his mind: Could concentric rings pressed together form keyless connections between shafts and hubs? He applied for a patent the very next day. Ringfeder GmbH, (now with U.S. headquarters in Westwood, N.J.) then mainly a train coupling manufacturer, produced the ring springs he'd read about. He contacted them for samples, and then tested and proved his design viable: By pressing the tapered rings together axially, they locked hubs onto shafts. Peter's invention soon earned him a job at Ringfeder.
Peter went on to patent about 50 keyless locking assembly variations during his lifetime, eventually founding his own manufacturing business. Today, his Peter Drive Components (now of Gerwah USA, Atlanta, Ga.) is still a well-known keyless connection brand. Millions of applications use Peter's tapered connections, replacing keyway connections (especially in applications under high torque loads) to improve safety factors.