Karl Benz Biography - Father of Automobile

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Karl Benz - Father of the Automobile Looking back on humanity’s achievements, you can pinpoint certain landmark moments that changed the world forever. One such moment was, undoubtedly, the birth of the automobile which, like rail transport before it and aviation afterward, completely revolutionized how humans moved around. 

Many people deserve credit for this achievement. As you are about to find out, the concept of the “first car in the world” is, by no means, a settled matter, but the lions share of the accolades goes to Karl Benz who designed and built what is regarded by many as the true first automobile. 

They say that behind every great man, there is a great woman and, perhaps, there is no better example than Bertha Benz. She was there to support her husband through thick and thin, enjoying the highs together and using her own money to get him back on his feet during the lows. 

Then, of course, there was also her iconic road trip which solidified the car as a practical machine. Bertha’s daringness combined with Karl's engineering genius ensured that people finally looked at the car as something that could actually be used in day-to-day life. We’ve come a long way since then but it would be completely fair to say that the automotive industry would not be what it is today without Karl Benz. 

Early Years Karl Benz, sometimes spelled with a C instead of a K, was born Karl Friedrich Vaillant on November 25, 1844, in the German town of Mühlburg which today is a borough of Karlsruhe in the state of Baden-Württemberg. His name was Vaillant because his father, Johann Georg Benz, and his mother, Josephine Vaillant, were not married at the time of his birth. 

This left the family in dire financial straits, but the mother did her best to ensure a good education for her son. Young Karl followed in his father’s footsteps and studied engineering and, from an early age, proved to be a prodigious student. In fact, when he was just 19 years old, Karl Benz graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Karlsruhe. 

This was in 1864 and yet, it would be a while before Benz finally found his vocation in life. He spent the next seven years trying out various jobs with multiple constructions and engineering firms throughout Germany, but he found them all to be unsatisfying. At the same time, he became an avid bicycle rider and enjoyed tinkering with them, fantasizing about a similar vehicle that would be motorized. In 1871, Karl Benz started his first business. 

He partnered with a mechanic named AugustRitter and opened the Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop in Mannheim. The company was not successful and, within a year, it was struggling financially. Fortunately for Benz, he soon found a better partner, one who would have an enormous impact on his life and the development of the automobile- his bride-to-be, Bertha Ringer. 

Karl and Bertha Ringer had been born in a time when it was firmly believed that women had no business with scientific and mechanical matters and that even just exerting their brains would decrease their ability to have children. Certainly not the case here - Karl and Bertha would go on to have five children together. And yet, even when she was young, Bertha took an interest in engineering. 

According to a particularly heartbreaking legend, she became determined to show the world that women were capable of achieving great things after reading her family’s Bible one day and finding an entry that said“Unfortunately only a girl again” - written by her father, on the day she was born. 

Whether this story is true or not, the elder Mr. Ringer did leave Bertha a substantial dowry after working as a successful carpenter all his life. Besides her wealth, Bertha Ringer was also a beautiful and clearly intelligent woman. When she reached marrying age, she had a long list of potential suitors to choose from. And yet, fate led to a poor, disheveled engineer named Karl Benz to share the same coach as Bertha and her mother during an excursion 1869. 

The two started talking and, as soon as Karl brought up a horseless carriage he was working on, he captured Bertha’s interest and, soon enough, her heart. Despite warnings and admonishments from her family, Bertha’s mind was made up - Karl was the man she wanted to be with for the rest of her life. The couple married in 1872. 

Bertha’s support of her husband was unwavering. Her first act was to use part of her dowry to buy out August Ritter’s share in Benz’s company. The rest of her money was used to keep the business afloat while Karl worked on new patents. Although Benz was, undoubtedly, a genius engineer and designer, nobody could ever accuse him of being a shrewd businessman. 

The Benz Companies Benz’s first great achievement was his stationary gasoline two-stroke engine. He was inspired by the work of an earlier german engineer, Nikolaus Otto, who created the first four-stroke engine in 1861. 

Benz received a patent for his invention in 1880 and went on to add improvements such as an engine speed regulation system and ignition via a battery system. 

This new device of Benz managed to garner interest from banks and businessmen who wanted to invest. Because he needed the capital to grow his company, Benz converted his business into a joint-stock company named Gasmotoren-FabrikMannheim in 1882. 

This did not work out as he hoped it would. After all the agreements were completed, Benz ended up only owning five percent of the company. More importantly, he did not have a say in how the business was run, anymore. 

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