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Gottlieb Daimler (German pronunciation: [ˈɡɔtliːp ˈdaɪmlɐ]; March 17, 1834 – March 6, 1900) 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 and the first four-wheel automobile.

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 baptized it the Grandfather Clock engine (Standuhr) because of its resemblance to an old 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 to 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 where he had taken additional drawing lessons on Sundays and expressed an interest in engineering.The next year, he started studying gunsmithing, building with his teacher, Riedel, a double-barreled gun.

In 1852 when eighteen, Daimler decided to take up mechanical engineering, and left his hometown.

International experience (1860 to 1863)

In the summer of 1860 Daimler, then aged 26, left Graffenstaden Maschinenfabrik in order to work for the end of 1863 found employment in Geislingen at the metal ware factory of Straub und Sohn, the business that would later become a household name as WMF (Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik).

Daimler later worked at Deutz.

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

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 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 December 31, 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 goldmarks in Deutz-AG shares in compensation for the patents of both Daimler and Maybach. Maybach resigned later.

The grandfather clock engine (1885)

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.

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 January 29, 1886.

On March 8, 1886, Daimler and Maybach secretly brought a stagecoach made by Wilhelm Wafter into the house, telling the neighbors it was a birthday gift for Mrs. Daimler. Maybach supervised the installation of a larger 1.1 hp 462 cc (28 cu in) (70×120 mm, 2.76×4.72 in) 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, 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 August 10, 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 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 July 8, 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.

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:

  • France, from 1890, by Panhard et Levassor and Peugeot
  • the United States, from 1891, by American and German piano maker Steinway & Sons
  • the United Kingdom, from 1893, by Frederick Simms' Daimler Motor Syndicate transferred in 1896 to the Daimler Motor Company
  • Austria, by Austro Daimler

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