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Gottlieb Daimler

Gottlieb Daimler
Black and white portrait of a grey haired man with a beard
Gottlieb Daimler
Born (1834-03-17)17 March 1834
Schorndorf, Württemberg
Died 6 March 1900(1900-03-06) (aged 65)
Cannstatt (Stuttgart), German Empire
Nationality German
Occupation Engineer, industrialist, automotive pioneer
Known for Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (Daimler Motors Corporation, DMG)

Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler (German pronunciation: ; 17 March 1834 – 6 March 1900[1]) was an engineer, industrial designer and industrialist born in Schorndorf (Kingdom of Württemberg, a federal state of the German Confederation), in what is now Germany. He was a pioneer of internal-combustion engines and automobile development. He invented the high-speed petrol engine.

Daimler and his lifelong business partner Wilhelm Maybach were two inventors whose goal was to create small, high-speed engines to be mounted in any kind of locomotion device. In 1885 they designed a precursor of the modern petrol (gasoline) engine which they subsequently fitted to a two-wheeler, the first internal combustion motorcycle and, in the next year, to a stagecoach, and a boat. Daimler called it the grandfather clock engine (Standuhr) because of its resemblance to a large pendulum clock.

In 1890, they founded Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG, in English—Daimler Motors Corporation). They sold their first automobile in 1892. Daimler fell ill and took a break from the business. Upon his return he experienced difficulty with the other stockholders that led to his resignation in 1893. This was reversed in 1894. Maybach resigned at the same time, and also returned. In 1900 Daimler died and Wilhelm Maybach quit DMG in 1907. In 1924, the DMG management signed a long term co-operation agreement with Karl Benz's Benz & Cie., and in 1926 the two companies merged to become Daimler-Benz AG, which is now part of Daimler AG.


  • Early life: 1834–1852 1
  • The Otto four-stroke engine (1876) 2
  • Daimler Motors: small, high-speed engines (1882) 3
  • The grandfather clock engine (1885) 4
  • First Daimler-Maybach automobile built (1889) 5
  • The Phönix engine (1890 to 1900) 6
  • First automobile sold (1892) 7
  • Honours 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Sources 11
  • External links 12

Early life: 1834–1852

Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler was the son of a baker named Johannes Däumler (Daimler) and his wife Frederika, from the town of Schorndorf near Stuttgart, Württemberg. By the age of 13 (1847), he had completed six years of primary studies in Lateinschule and became interested in engineering. The next year, he began an apprenticeship with a carbine maker, Raithel.[2] He graduated in 1852, passing the craft test with a pair of engraved double-barreled pistols.[3] The same year, at eighteen, Daimler decided to take up mechanical engineering, abandoning gun smithing,[3] and left his hometown.

Signing up at Stuttgart's School for Advanced Training in the Industrial Arts, under the tutelage of Ferdinand Steinbeis. Daimler was studious, even taking extra Sunday morning classes. In 1853, Daimler, with Steinbeis' assistance, got work at "the factory college", F. Rollé und Schwilque(R&S) in Grafenstaden, so-called because its manager, Friedrich Messmer, had been an instructor at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.[3] Daimler performed well, and when Rollé und Schwilque began making railway locomotives in 1856, Daimler, then 22, was named foreman.[3]

Instead of staying, Daimler took two years at Stuttgart's Polytechnic Institute to hone his skills, gaining in-depth grasp of steam locomotives, as well as "a profound conviction" steam was destined to be superseded.[3] He conceived small, cheap, simple engines for light industrial use, possibly inspired by the newly developed gas engines of that era.[3]

In 1861, he resigned from R&S, visiting Paris, then went on to England, working with the country's top engineering firms, becoming knowledgeable with machine tools. He spent from autumn 1861 to summer 1863 in England, then regarded as “the motherland of technology”,[4] at Beyer, Peacock and Company of Gorton, Manchester. Beyer was from Saxony.[5] While in London, he visited the 1862 International Exhibition, where one of the exhibits was a steam carriage.[3] These carriages did not evidently inspire him, however, for his wish was to produce machine tools and woodworking machinery.[3]

Daimler went to work for Maschinenbau Gesellschaft Karlsruhe in July.[6]

When in 1872 Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz, management picked Daimler as factory manager, bypassing even Otto, and Daimler joined the company in August, taking Maybach with him as chief designer.[6]

While Daimler managed to improve production, the weakness in the Otto's vertical piston design, coupled to Daimler's stubborn insistence on atmospheric engines, led the company to an impasse.[6] Neither Otto nor Daimler would give way, and when Daimler was offered the choice of founding a Deutz branch in St. Petersburg or resigning, he resigned to set up shop in Cannstatt (financed by savings and shares in Deutz),[7] where he was shortly joined by Maybach.[6]

At Cannstatt, Daimler and the more creative thinking Maybach[6] devised their engine. At Daimler's insistence, it eliminated "the clumsy, complicated slide-valve ignition",[8] in favor of a hot tube system invented by Leo Funk, since Daimler also distrusted electricity.[8] It took considerable effort and experimentation, but eventually, the duo perfected a .5 hp (0.37 kW; 0.51 PS) vertical single, which was fitted in the Reitwagen, a purpose-built two-wheeler chassis with two spring-loaded stabilizerss.[8] When this proved the engine capable of driving a vehicle, Daimler devised a 1.1 hp (0.82 kW; 1.1 PS) single and ordered a Wimpff und Soehne four-seater phaeton to house it.[8] Daimler's engine was installed by Maschinenfabrik Esslingen and drove the rear wheels through a dual-ratio belt drive.[8]

The Otto four-stroke engine (1876)

In 1872 (at age 38), Daimler and Maybach moved to work at the world's largest manufacturer of stationary engines at the time, the Deutz-AG-Gasmotorenfabrik in Cologne. It was half-owned by Nikolaus Otto, who was looking for a new technical director. As directors, both Daimler and Otto focused on gas-engine development while Maybach was chief designer.

In 1876, Otto invented the four-stroke cycle, also known as the Otto Cycle, a system characterized by four piston strokes (intake, compression, power, and exhaust). Otto intended that his invention would replace the steam engines predominant in those years, even though his engine was still primitive and inefficient. Otto's engine was patented in 1877, but the patent was soon challenged and overturned. Unbeknownst to Otto, Daimler, and Maybach, in Mannheim during 1878, Karl Benz was concentrating all his efforts on creating a reliable two-stroke gas engine based on the same principle. Benz finished his engine on 31 December 1878, and was granted a patent for his engine in 1879.

Meanwhile, serious personal differences arose between Daimler and Otto, reportedly with Otto being jealous of Daimler, because of his university background and knowledge. Daimler was fired in 1880, receiving 112,000 goldmarks in Deutz-AG shares in compensation for the patents of both Daimler and Maybach. Maybach resigned later.

Daimler Motors: small, high-speed engines (1882)

Daimler's summer house (Cannstatt)

After leaving Deutz-AG, Daimler and Maybach started to work together. In 1882, they moved back to Stuttgart in southern Germany, purchasing a cottage in Cannstatt's Taubenheimstrasse, with 75,000 goldmarks from the compensation from Deutz-AG. In the garden, they added a brick extension to the roomy glass-fronted summer house and this became their workshop. Their activities alarmed the neighbors who reported them to the police as suspected counterfeiters. The police obtained a key from the gardener and raided the house in their absence, but found only engines.

Daimler and Maybach spent long hours debating how best to fuel Otto's four-stroke design, and turned to a byproduct of petroleum. The main distillates of petroleum at the time were lubricating oil, kerosene (burned as lamp fuel), and benzine, which up to then was used mainly as a cleaner and was sold in pharmacies.

The grandfather clock engine (1885)

In late 1885, Daimler and Maybach developed the first of their petrol engines, which featured:

  • a single horizontal cylinder of 264 cc (16 cu in)[9] (58×100 mm, 2.28×3.94 in)[9]
  • air cooling
  • large cast iron flywheel
  • surface carburetor[10]
  • hot tube ignition system (patent 28022)
  • cam operated exhaust valves, allowing high speed operation
  • 0.5 hp (370 W)[9]
  • 600 rpm running speed, beating previous engines, which typically ran at about 120 to 180 rpm
  • weight of around 50 kg (110 lb)[9]
  • height of 76 cm (30 in)[9]

In 1885, they created a carburetor which mixed gasoline with air allowing its use as fuel. In the same year Daimler and Maybach assembled a larger version of their engine, still relatively compact, but now with a vertical cylinder of 100 cc displacement and an output of 1 hp at 600 rpm (patent DRP-28-022: "non-cooled, heat insulated engine with unregulated hot-tube ignition"). It was baptized the Standuhr ("grandfather clock"), because Daimler thought it resembled an old pendulum clock.

The Reitwagen (riding car), the world's first internal combustion motorcycle (1885)

In November 1885, Daimler installed a smaller version of this engine in a wooden two wheeler frame with two outrigger wheels, creating the first internal combustion motorcycle (Patent 36-423impff & Sohn "Vehicle with gas or petroleum drive machine"). It was named the Reitwagen (riding car). Maybach rode it for three kilometers (two miles) alongside the river Neckar, from Cannstatt to Untertürkheim, reaching 12 kilometres per hour (7 mph).

Also in 1885, but unknown to Maybach and Daimler, only sixty miles away in Mannheim, Karl Benz built the first true automobile using an integral design for a motorized vehicle with one of his own engines. He was granted a patent for his motorwagen on 29 January 1886.

On 8 March 1886, Daimler and Maybach secretly brought a [9] version of the Grandfather Clock engine into this stagecoach and it became the first four-wheeled vehicle to reach 16 kilometres per hour (10 mph). The engine power was transmitted by a set of belts. As with the motorcycle, it was tested on the road to Untertürkheim where nowadays the Mercedes-Benz Arena, formerly called the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion, is situated.

Driven by Daimler's desire to use the engine as many ways as possible,[9] Daimler and Maybach used the engine in other types of transport including:

  • on water (1886), by mounting it in a 4.5 metres (15 ft) long boat and achieving a speed of 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph). The boat was called Neckar after the river where it was tested. (patent DRP 39-367). This was the world's first motorboat and boat engines soon would become Daimler's main product for several years. The first customers expressed fear the petrol engine could explode, so Daimler hid the engine with a ceramic cover and told them it was "oil-electrical".
  • street-cars and trolleys.
  • in the air in Daimler's balloon, usually regarded as the first airship, where it replaced a hand-operated engine designed by Dr. Friedrich Hermann Wölfert of Leipzig. With the new engine, Daimler successfully flew over Seelberg on 10 August 1888.

They sold their first foreign licenses for engines in 1887 and Maybach went as their representative to the 1889 Paris Exposition to show their achievements.

First Daimler-Maybach automobile built (1889)

Steel Wheel Automobile 1889
 · high speed four-stroke petrol engine
 · fuel vaporization
 · 2 cylinders V-configured
 · mushroom shaped valves
 · water-cooled
 · 4 speed toothed gearbox
 · pioneer axle-pivot steering system

Engine sales increased, mostly for use in boats, and in June 1887, Daimler bought another property at Seelberg hill, Cannstatt. It was located some distance from the town on Ludwigstraße 67 because Cannstatt's mayor did not approve of the workshop. Built at a cost 30,200 goldmarks, the new premises had room for 23 employees. Daimler managed the commercial issues while Maybach ran the engine design department.

In 1889, Daimler and Maybach built the Stahlradwagen, their first automobile that did not involve adapting a horse-drawn carriage with their engine, but which was somewhat influenced by bicycle designs. There was no production in Germany, but it was licensed to be built in France and presented to the public in Paris in October 1889 by both engineers. The same year, Daimler's wife, Emma Kunz, died.

The Phönix engine (1890 to 1900)

With demand for engines growing, for uses in everything from motorboats to railcars,[8] Maybach and Daimler expanded. With funding from gunpowder maker Max Duttenhofer, industrialist Wilhelm Lorenz, and banker Kilian von Steiner, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft was founded 28 November 1890,[11] with Maybach as chief designer. Its purpose was the construction of small, high-speed engines for use on land, water, and air transport. The three uses were expressed by Daimler in a sketch that became the basis for a logo with a three-pointed star.

Many German historians consider this Daimler's "pact with the devil".[12] DMG expanded, but it changed. The newcomers, not believing in automobile production, ordered the creation of additional stationary building capacity, and considered merging DMG with Otto's Deutz-AG.

Daimler and Maybach preferred plans to produce automobiles and reacted against Duttenhofer and Lorenz. Maybach was denied a seat on the board and on 11 February 1891, he left the business. He continued his design work as a freelance in Cannstatt from his own house, with Daimler's support, moving to the closed Hermann Hotel in the autumn of 1892. He used its ballroom and winter garden as workshops, employing twelve workers and five apprentices.

The new company developed the high-speed inline-two Phönix, for which Maybach invented a spray carburettor, a needless innovation given it still relied on hot tube ignition.[8] This was fitted in a singularly ugly car,[8] which entered production (after a cessation of hostilities between Daimler, Maybach, and the DMG board), in 1895.[8]

First automobile sold (1892)

In 1892, DMG finally sold its first automobile. Gottlieb Daimler, aged 58, had heart problems and suffered a collapse in the winter of 1892–1893. His doctor prescribed a trip to Florence, where he met Lina Hartmann, a widow 22 years his junior who was the owner of the hotel where he was staying. They married on 8 July 1893, honeymooning in Chicago during its World Fair.

The disputes with Lorenz continued. Daimler attempted to buy 102 extra shares to get a majority holding, but was forced out of his post as technical director. The corporation was 400,000 goldmarks in debt. The other directors threatened to declare bankruptcy if Daimler didn't sell them all his shares and all his personal patent rights from the previous thirty years. Daimler accepted the offer, receiving 66,666 goldmarks, and resigned in 1893.

In 1894 at the Hermann Hotel, Maybach together with Daimler and his son Paul designed a third engine called the "Phoenix" and had DMG make it. It featured:

  • four cylinders cast in one block arranged vertically and parallel
  • camshaft operated exhaust valves
  • a spray nozzle carburetor, patented by Maybach in 1893
  • an improved belt drive system

This is probably the same internal-combustion engine referred to by the American author and historian Henry Brooks Adams, who describes the "Daimler motor" and its great speed from his visit to the 1900 Paris Exposition in his autobiography.[13]

The ill-defined relationship between the inventors and DMG harmed the image of DMG's technical department. This continued until 1894 when the British industrialist Frederick Simms made it a condition of his 350,000 mark purchase of a Phoenix engine license, which would stabilize the corporation's finances, that Daimler, now aged sixty, should return to DMG. Gottlieb Daimler received 200,000 goldmarks in shares, plus a 100,000 bonus. Simms received the right to use the name "Daimler" as his brand name for the engines. In 1895, the year DMG assembled its 1,000th engine, Maybach returned as chief engineer, receiving 30,000 shares.

During this period, they agreed to licenses to build Daimler engines around the world, which included:

Daimler died in 1900, and in 1907 Maybach resigned from DMG.


Gottlieb Daimler was accepted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1978. Between 1993 and July 2008 Daimler had a stadium named after him in Stuttgart, Germany. The Mercedes-Benz Arena was the venue for six matches in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

Gottlieb Daimler's motto was Das Beste oder nichts ("The best or nothing at all"; "Nothing but the best").[14] Mercedes-Benz adopted this motto as their slogan in 2010.

See also


  1. ^ "Gottlieb Daimler". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ Wise, David Burgess (1974). "Daimler: Founder of the Four-Wheeler", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles. London: Orbis, Volume 5, p. 481.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Wise, p. 481.
  4. ^ Press Kit: Mercedes-Benz in the UK. Stuttgart, 13 June 2007; Daimler Global Media
  5. ^ Ehland, Christoph ed. (2007) Thinking Northern: Textures of Identity in the North of England. Editions Rodopi, Amsterdam
  6. ^ a b c d e f Wise, p. 482.
  7. ^ Wise, pp. 482–483.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wise, p.483.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Georgano, G. N. (1990) Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886–1930. London: Grange-Universal, p. 13.
  10. ^ Abrams, Michael (April 2012), Gottlieb Daimler,  
  11. ^ Wise, p.483, makes no mention of financial troubles, nor of von Steiner.
  12. ^ Etscheit, Georg. "Der Tόftler im Glashaus". Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  13. ^ Adams, H., The Education of Henry Adams, Ch XXV, originally published 1918
  14. ^ Nitske, W Robert (1955). The complete Mercedes story: the thrilling seventy-year history of Daimler. London: Macmillan. p. 9.  


  • Siebertz, Paul. Gottlieb Daimler: ein Revolutionär der Technik. 4. Auflage, Stuttgart: Reclam Verlag, 1950.
  • Wise, David Burgess. "Daimler: Founder of the Four-Wheeler", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles Volume 5, pp. 481–3. London: Orbis, 1974.

External links

  • Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz-Foundation
  • Encarta article (Archived 2009-10-31)
  • The workaholic who made the automotive revolution possible
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