Gottlieb Daimler: Genius behind modern cars
This pioneer of the internal combustion engine founded automobile industries in 3 countries, made engines for cars, boats, trams and airships. He also innovated four-wheel drive cars.Updated: Jul 15, 2020 17:58 IST
Daimler was born on March 17, 1834 in Schorndorf, Germany to baker Johannes Daimler and Frederika Daimler.
The senior Daimler wanted his son to become a municipal employee but the boy had a mechanical bent of mind and apprenticed himself to a gunsmith. After completing apprenticeship, he pursued mechanical engineering and worked under the guidance of Ferdinand Steinbeis at the School for Advanced Training in the Industrial Arts in Stuttgart. At the factory college, he impressed everyone with his abilities and was inducted as a foreman. He then enrolled at Stuttgart’s Polytechnic Institute and learnt about steam locomotives. He worked as an engineer and technical director in some leading companies for three decades. He met Nikolaus August Otto, inventor of the four-cycle internal combustion engine and Wilhelm Maybach with whom he collaborated on many projects.
Daimler and Maybach designed a precursor to the modern petrol engine. It was fitted on the first motorcycle and then on a stagecoach and a boat.
In 1869, he was appointed director of Maschinenbau-Gesellschaft Karlsruhe, a locomotive and railway wagon manufacturer. In 1872, he began to work as a technical manager for the engine manufacturer Gasmotorenfabrik Deutz. In mid-1882, he started an experimental workshop with Maybach’s help. The duo set up a factory in Stuttgart to make high-speed, gasoline-powered engines. Over the next two decades, he played a huge role in many advancements.
In 1883, Daimler and Maybach developed high-speed gasoline-powered internal combustion engines for locomotive devices. In 1884, they invented another engine for use in cars and boats. That was a breakthrough and the engine was also known as the ‘grandfather clock’.
In 1885, Daimler developed the first motorcycle by placing an engine with controls on a two-wheel vehicle. He called it the ‘reitwagen’ or the ‘riding carriage’.
In 1886, he installed an engine on a stagecoach which was later developed into a four-wheel vehicle. In 1889, he developed a four-stroke engine with V-slanted cylinders and valves. During the same year, they also manufactured the first automobile with a four-speed transmission system. In 1890, Daimler and Maybach set up the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in Stuttgart. A car powered by an engine designed by Daimler won the first international car race from Paris to Rouen in 1894. Only 15 out of the 102 cars in the race completed it and all 15 had Daimler engines. Daimler and Maybach rejoined the Daimler Motor Company in 1895. The firm produced the first truck the following year. In 1900, the company produced an automobile named Mercedes after the financier who backed Daimler.
Daimler married Emma Kunz in 1867 and the couple had sons Adolf and Paul. The marriage lasted two decades until Emma’s death. When he had gone to Florence to have heart ailment treated, he married Lina Hartmann. He died of heart disease in Stuttgart, on March 6, 1900, aged 65. In 1926, his firm merged with Benz to form Mercedes-Benz.
Daimler was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1978. A stadium named after him — the Gottlieb-Daimler- Stadion in Stuttgart — was one of the venues of the 2006 FIFA World Cup championship.
Daimler’s motto, Das Beste oder nichts (meaning ‘Nothing but the best’), was adopted by Mercedes-Benz as its slogan. When he was at locomotives firm Rollé und Schwilque, he decided to move on and founded the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft on Nov. 28, 1890 to make small, high-speed engines for use on land, water and air — symbolised in the three-pointed figure Mercedes adopted as its logo.
The efforts of Daimler and his partner, Wilhelm Maybach, as well as Carl Benz was instrumental in reducing the size and weight of the engine coupled with an increase in its power output. Benz and Daimler further fine-tuned their ideas, earned patents and transformed them into reality. Those initiatives make the trio the fathers of an invention that changed the world to a large extent in many ways.
Sources: famousscientists.org, thefamouspeople.com, wikipedia