Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler
March 17, 1834 - March 6, 1900
Wilhelm Daimler was an engineer, industrial designer and
industrialist, born in Schorndorf (Kingdom of Württemberg) what
is now Germany. He was a pioneer of internal-combustion engines
and automobile development.
Daimler and his lifelong business partner Wilhelm Maybach were
two inventors whose dream was to create small, high speed
engines to be mounted in any kind of locomotion device. They
patented in 1885 a precursor of the modern
petrol engine which they subsequently fitted to a two-wheeler,
considered the first motorcycle and, in the next year, to a
stagecoach, and a boat. They are renowned as the inventors of
this Grandfather Clock engine.
Later, in 1890, they founded Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG).
They sold their first automobile in 1892. Daimler fell ill
taking a break from the company and upon his return experienced
difficulty with the other stock holders that led to his
resignation in 1893 that was reversed in 1894. Soon Maybach
resigned also and he returned at the same time as Daimler. In
1900 Daimler died and 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 thirteen
(1847), he had completed his six years of primary studies in
Lateinschule where he had also had 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.
Again, Daimler became restless in his studies as his main
interest still lay in engineering. In 1852 when eighteen, he
finally decided to take up mechanical engineering, and left his
Career beginnings and Maybach
Gottlieb Daimler took up his first mechanical engineering work
in industry at Graffenstaden, but abandoned it in 1857 to begin
studies at the Stuttgart Polytechnic.
After this, Daimler traveled through several European countries.
In France, he studied the novel gas engine of J. J. Lenoir and
also worked in other factories including one in Strasbourg which
made locomotives, and in another, which made band saws.
In the United Kingdom, Daimler helped start engineering works in
Oldham, Leeds, and Manchester (with Joseph Whitworth). Later, he
also worked in Belgium. Finally, he returned to Germany, working
as technical designer in a metal factory at Geislingen an der
Steige, with the father of his friend Heinrich Straub.
At twenty-nine years old, in 1863, Daimler started in a special
factory, a Bruderhaus in Reutlingen. It had charitable purposes,
with a staff made up of orphans, invalids, and poor people. One
of the orphans was Wilhelm Maybach, a qualified Industrial
designer aged nineteen years who would become his lifelong
In his free time Daimler had fun designing machinery,
agricultural equipment, and also some scales. In 1867, he
married Emma Kunz, a pharmacist's daughter. They were to have
five sons among whom was Paul Daimler.
In 1869, at thirty-five, Daimler moved to Karlsruhe, to work at
the engineering manufacturer, Maschinenbau-Gesellschaft
Karlsruhe AG. Six months later, Maybach joined him as Technical
Designer. Both inventors spent long nights discussing new
designs for engines for pumps, lumber industries, and metal
The Otto Four-Stroke engine (1876)
In 1872 (at age thirty-eight), Gottlieb Daimler and Maybach
moved to work at the world's largest manufacturer of stationary
engines of the time, the Deutz-AG-Gasmotorenfabrik in Cologne.
It was half-owned by Nikolaus August Otto who was looking for a
new technical director. As directors, both Daimler and Otto
focused on gas-engine development while Maybach was chief
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. Unknown 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, New Year's Eve, 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 Gold-marks in Deutz-AG shares in
compensation for the patents of both Daimler and Maybach.
Maybach resigned later.
After leaving Deutz-AG, Daimler and Maybach began to work
together. In 1882, they moved back to Stuttgart in Southern
Germany, purchasing a cottage in Cannstatt's Taubenheimstrasse,
with 75,000 Gold marks from the compensation from Deutz-AG. In
the garden, they added a brick extension to the roomy
glass-fronted summerhouse and this became their workshop.
Eventually, their activities alarmed the neighbors who called
the police and reported them as suspected counterfeiters. The
police obtained a key from their gardener and raided the house
in their absence, but found only engines.
In 1890 Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (Daimler Engines Company)
or DMG, was founded 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 is the basis for
the modern Mercedes-Benz logo of a three-pointed star.
Daimler and Maybach spent lnog 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
The Grandfather Clock Engine (1885)
In late 1885, Daimler and Maybach developed the
first of their engines, which is often considered the precursor
of all modern petrol engines. It featured:
* a single horizontal cylinder of 264cc
* air cooling
* large cast iron flywheel
* hot tube ignition system --patent 28022--
* cam operated exhaust valves, allowing high speed operation
* 600 rpm running speed, beating previous engines which
typically ran at about 120 to 180 rpm
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 cm²
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 Grandfather
Clock (Standuhr), because Daimler thought it resembled an old
pendulum clock. This is probably the same internal-combustion
engine referred to by American author and historian Henry Adams,
who, in his autobiography, describes the "Daimler motor" (Kolocotroni,
Goldman and Taxidou 42) at the Paris Exposition of 1910 (Kolocotroni,
Goldman and Taxidou 41).
In November 1885, Daimler installed a smaller version of this
engine in a wooden bicycle, creating the first motorcycle
(Patent 36-423impff & Sohn "Vehicle with gas or petroleum drive
machine"). It was named the "riding car" ("Reitwagen"). Maybach
rode it for 3 kilometers alongside the river Neckar, from
Cannstatt to Untertürkheim, reaching 12 km/h (7 mph).
Also in 1885 Karl Benz built a three wheeled automobile and was
granted a patent for it dated January 29, 1886.
On March 8, 1886, Daimler and Maybach secretly brought a
stagecoach made by Wilhelm Wafter to the house, telling the
neighbors it was a birthday gift for Mrs. Daimler. Maybach
supervised the installation of a larger 1.5 hp version of the
Grandfather Clock engine into this and it became the first four
wheeled vehicle to reach 16 km/h (10 mph). The engine power was
transmitted by a set of belts. Like the motor cycle, it also was
tested on the road to Untertürkheim where nowadays the
Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion is situated.
Daimler and Maybach also used the engine in other types of
* on water (1887), by mounting it in a 4.5 meters long boat and
achieving a speed of 6 knots (11 km/h). The boat was called
Neckar after the river it was tested on. (patent DRP 39-367).
Boat engines would become Daimler's main product for several
* 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 Woelfert 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 company representative to the Paris World's Fair
to show their achievements.
Engine sales increased, mostly for boat use, 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 which
cost 30,200 gold marks. The new premises had room for
twenty-three employees and Daimler managed the commercial issues
while Maybach ran the Design Department.
In 1889, Daimler and Maybach built their first automobile that
did not involve adapting a horse drawn carriage with their
engine, but 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 inventors. The same year, Daimler's wife, Emma Kunz, died.
Gottlieb Daimler's "pact with the devil" and the Phoenix
engine (1890 to 1900)
Daimler and Maybach were struggling financially with the
company, they were not selling enough engines or making enough
money from their patents. Two financiers and munitions makers,
Max Von Duttenhofer and William Lorenz, along with the
influential banker Kilian Steiner agreed to inject some capital
and converted the company on November 28, 1890 into a public
corporation named the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, DMG.
Many German historians consider that this was Daimler's "pact
with the devil" . DMG expanded, but it changed. The
newcomers, not believing in automobile production, ordered the
creation of additional stationary building capacity, and also
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 February 11, 1891, left the company. 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 using its ballroom and winter
garden, employing twelve workers and five apprentices.
Finally—in 1892—DMG sold its first automobile. Gottlieb Daimler,
at age fifty-eight, had heart problems and suffered a collapse
in the winter of 1892/1893. His doctor prescribed a trip to
Florence, Italy where he met Lina Hartmann, a widow twenty-two
years his junior, and owner of the hotel where he was staying.
They married on July 8, 1893, honeymooning in Chicago during its
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 company also was in debt to
the amount of 400,000 gold marks and 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 option, receiving 66,666
Gold-marks, resigning 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
* camshaft operated exhaust valves
* a spray nozzle carburetor --patented by Maybach in 1893--
* an improved belt drive system
It became famous around the world and when fitted to a car it
won the petrol engine category of the first car race in history,
the Paris to Rouen 1894.
The ill defined relationship between the inventors and DMG
harmed the image of DMG's technical department. This continued
until during 1894 when the British industrialist Fredrick Simms
made it a condition of his 350,000 mark purchase of a Phoenix
engine license, which would stabilize the company finances, that
Daimler, now aged sixty, should return to DMG. Gottlieb Daimler
received 200,000 gold marks in shares, plus a 100,000 bonus.
Simms received the right to use the Daimler brand name. In 1895,
the year DMG assembled its 1000th engine, Maybach also returned
as chief engineer, receiving 30,000 in shares.
During this period, their agreed licenses to build Daimler
engines around the world included:
* France, from 1890, by Panhard & Levassor and Peugeot
* USA, from 1891, by Steinway the German piano maker
* United Kingdom, from 1896, by Frederick Simms as his Daimler
* Austria, by Austro Daimler
Daimler died in 1900 and in 1907 Maybach resigned from DMG. In
1918 discussions With DMG about collaboration were initiated by
Karl Benz, but rejected by the managers. In 1924 they resumed,
and an agreement was reached that shared resources but provided
for the production of separate brands. In 1924 a merger took
place for a new company, Daimler-Benz, that led to a new brand
name for the products produced by both, Mercedes-Benz.
Daimler-Benz merged with Chrysler in 1999, resulting in
* In a letter to his wife in the 1870s there was historically
significant remark. On a panoramic postcard of Cologne, Gottieb
Daimler traced a three pointed star, writing: "one day this star
will shine over our triumphant factories". The motto inspired
Daimler and Maybach to use petrol engines in three ways, on
land, water and air. After more than two decades, under Paul and
Adolf Daimler's initiative, Daimler's star became the trademark
* Gottlieb Daimler was accepted into the Automotive Hall of Fame
* The UK patent rights to the Gottlieb Daimler engines and the
use of the Daimler name were purchased in 1893 by Frederick
Simms, he started a company of his own called the Daimler Motor
Syndicate, which became the Daimler Motor Company in 1896. In
1960 the British Daimler brand name was acquired by Jaguar.
* In Germany, Stuttgart's Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion was the venue
for six matches in the 2006 FIFA World Cup
* Gottlieb Daimler's motto was: “Nothing but the best.”
* On the Neckar motorboat the first customers expressed fear
that the petrol engine could explode, so Daimler hid the engine
with a ceramic cover and told them that it was "Oil-Electrical".
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This web page was last updated on:
09 December, 2008