Episode #3 of the course “History’s greatest entrepreneurs”
German engineer Karl Benz has a name that is now associated with one of the finest driving experiences in the world, as founder of Mercedes-Benz. He is widely regarded as the inventor of the first self-propelled and self-contained combustion engine. He was awarded the first international patent for an automobile. Benz’s “horseless carriage” set the stage for automobile development and production, including his advanced 4-stroke combustion engine and evaporative cooling system. Benz jump-started the world into the automobile age of travel.
Born in 1844, Karl Benz stumbled through his early career until he began training with a mechanical engineering company. He took positions with a scale company, a bridge company, and finally an iron-working company. After a business failure, he patented a design for a two-stroke engine and subsequently designed an ignition system, speed regulator, clutch, carburetor, and radiator-coolant system. Benz is responsible for not only the engine, but many of the basics of motor car operation (except for the steering wheel). Business ventures took him away from design for decades, but when the opportunity presented itself, he refocused on designing a working motorcar.
1885 Benz Patent Motorwagen
Karl Benz’ famous 1885 Benz Patent Motorwagen incorporated a bicycle-based design that made it lightweight and efficient but difficult to control. Nevertheless, the automobile was patented in 1886, and by 1888 was released for public purchase. Benz had been married to his wife Bertha since 1872, and she was integral in his development of the Motorcar’s design. The story goes that she took the Motorcar for its first long-distance drive on a trip to her mother’s house that was both an experiment and a promotional event. After this drive, she is credited for inventing brake linings, as well as suggesting additional gears in the transmission so the automobile could climb hills unassisted. Karl Benz incorporated both of his wife’s suggestions.
The Benz Patent-Motorwagen Number 3 of 1888, used by Bertha Benz for the first long distance journey by automobile (more than 106 km or sixty miles)
“My first customer was a lunatic. My second had a death wish.”
“Daimler & Benz: The Complete History: The Birth and Evolution of the Mercedes-Benz” by Dennis Adler
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