Gottlieb Daimler

Gottlieb Daimler Biography (1834-1900)

Gottlieb Daimler, the son of a master baker, was born in Schorndorf, Württemburg, on March 17, 1834.

His father wanted his son to become a municipal employee, but the young, mechanically inclined Daimler instead apprenticed himself to a gunsmith. After four years of his apprenticeship (during which he attended a technical school), Daimler worked in a steam-engine factory and eventually completed his schooling at the Stuttgart Polytechnic.

He spent the next three decades working as an engineer and technical director of engine development for several companies. It was during this period that he worked with Nikolaus August Otto, the inventor of the four-cycle internal combustion engine, and Wilhelm Maybach, who become Daimler’s lifelong collaborator.

In 1882 Daimler and Maybach set up a factory to produce a light, high-speed, gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. They intended to design an engine that could be used to power a vehicle.

Despite early disappointments, Daimler’s invention of a reliable self-firing ignition systems (a red-hot, porcelain tube that protruded into the cylinder), and Maybach’s invention of a device similar to the carburetor for their smaller gas engine, helped push them ahead of other inventors who were emerging as competitors.

In an attempt to find a commercial use for his engine, Daimler fitted it to a boat in 1882. Three years later, Daimler and Maybach fitted their engine to a crude wooden bicycle–the first motorcycle –and drove it on the streets of Mannheim, Baden. In 1887 their sophisticated gasoline engine was adapted to power a four-wheeled vehicle, creating one of the first true automobiles (its unique features included a belt-drive mechanism to turn the wheels, a “tiller” for steering, and a four-speed gearbox)

At the 1889 Paris Exposition, the Daimler Company exhibited a two-cylinder V-shaped engine, perhaps the first engine to use the “V” design. In 1890 Daimler and Maybach formed the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in Stuttgart, but they left the company only a year later in order to concentrate on various technical and commercial development projects.

A Daimler-powered car won the first international car race–the 1894 Paris-to-Rouen race. Of the 102 cars that started the competition, only fifteen completed it, and all finishers were powered by a Daimler engine. The race focused attention on the Daimler Motor Company and helped to promote the concept of motoring in general.

The success of the Paris-to-Rouen race may also have been a factor in Daimler’s and Maybach’s decision to rejoin the Daimler Motor Company in 1895. In the following year, the Daimler Company produced the first road truck, and in 1900 the company produced the first Mercedes automobile (named for the daughter of the financier backing Daimler).

Daimler did not live to see this first Mercedes; he died of heart disease on March 6, 1900, in Stuttgart, Germany, after a lifetime as an inventor in the forefront of automobile development.  Daimler’s auto company merged with the Benz Company (also of Germany) in 1926, forming the Mercedes-Benz Automobile Company.

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