(1844 – 1929)
On January 29, 1886, German engineer and entrepreneur Karl Benz patented the first successful gasoline-driven automobile.
Karl Friedrich Benz was born as Karl Friedrich Michael Vaillant into a family of a locomotive driver and a maid – the couple married a few month after Carl’s birth – and after his father passed away two years later, his mother had to work hard to finance Karl’s education. He attended a school popular for its nature science classes and later continued his education at the Poly-Technical University of Karlsruhe. After focussing on locksmithing, Benz decided to go into locomotive engineering and developed his early concepts for the horseless carriage shortly after. In the early 1870’s, Benz launched the Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop in Mannheim along with August Ritter, but after a rough start their machines were impounded and only Bertha, Karl’s later wife could rescue the company with financial aid through buying Ritter’s shares.
Even though their business start was critical concerning financial issues, Karl Benz was able to push the development of engines forward, especially focusing on a petrol two-stroke engine, which was finished on New Years Eve in 1878. The curious inventor was able to patent the engine and its design as well as speed regulation systems, the water radiator, the gear shirt and further features needed to succeed on the market.
Because of the financial struggles, the Benz’ had to transfer their business into a stock company with the effect that most members of the supervisory board disliked his new ideas and inventions if they were not obviously financially promising. Shortly after, Benz left the company founding Benz & Cie. Rheinische Gasmotorenfabrik Mannheim in the early 1880’s, which became the world’s biggest factory for automobiles until 1900. After further difficulties, Benz again left the business founding ‘Carl Benz Söhne’.
Benz’s difficulties not only were not only restricted to financial issues, but also concerned the general public, which confronted Benz’ company with mockery and contempt for his wagons without horses. Nevertheless, Benz worked continuously on the advancement of his technologies. Times of upheaval set in, when Bertha Benz drove von Mannheim to Pforzheim without her husband knowing with the Patent-Motorwagen Nr. 3. She arrived after 12 hours and caused a great public attention convincing the people of Benz’ new developments. But this is a whole different story…
At yovisto, you may enjoy the video cast on Carl Benz and his achievements.
References and Further Reading:
- History of the internal combustion engine
Frederic P. Miller
Alphascript Publishing, 2010
- Bertha Benz Website
- Carl Friedrich Benz: Lebensfahrt eines deutschen Erfinders. Autobiografie
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