Karl Friedrich Michael Vaillant (1844 - 1929) MP

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Karl Benz's Geni Profile

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Birthplace: Mühlburg, Karlsruhe, Germany
Death: Died in Ladenburg, Germany
Managed by: David Leeds
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Karl Friedrich Michael Vaillant

In 1885, German mechanical engineer, Karl Benz designed and built the world's first practical automobile to be powered by an internal-combustion engine. On January 29, 1886, Benz received the first patent (DRP No. 37435) for a gas-fueled car. It was a three-wheeler; Benz built his first four-wheeled car in 1891. Benz & Company, the company started by the inventor, became the world's largest manufacturer of automobiles by 1900.

Karl Friedrich Benz, sometimes spelled as Carl, was born Karl Friedrich Michael Vaillant, in Karlsruhe, Baden, to Josephine Vaillant and a locomotive driver, Johann George Benz, whom she married a few months later. When he was two years old, his father was killed in a railway accident, and his name was changed to Karl Friedrich Benz in remembrance of his father.

Despite living in near poverty, his mother strove to give him a good education. Benz was a prodigious student. He attended the local Grammar School in Karlsruhe and the local gymnasium and polytechnic school. At age 21, Benz went to work in a local machine shop. He continued to work in the machine tool industry and, in 1871, opened a small engineering works with August Ritter as his partner. His first efforts to power a horseless carriage were not very fruitful, but he persisted. Some said he was obsessed with the idea. Shut out of the race to develop a four-stroke engine by Nikolaus August Otto's patented engine, Benz continued to make improvements to a one-horsepower, two-stroke engine of his own design at his factory in Mannheim. Eventually, this new engine attracted enough financial support for Benz to open a new company (without Ritter) in 1883.

It was this company, called Benz & Company, which built the world's first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. Benz and another German, Gottlieb Daimler, feuded over who should be the deserving recipient of this honor. In fact, the two men never met and developed their automobiles independently, but it appears that Benz was about two years ahead of Daimler.

Benz also saw the motor car differently than did Daimler. Daimler believed the public would demand that the automobile closely resemble a converted horse carriage; Benz maintained that a completely different vehicle was called for. His first self-propelled vehicle was a three-wheeled, horseshoe-shaped contrivance that resembled a giant baby carriage. Benz may also have been the casualty of an automobile accident, having driven one of his first autos into a wall at his factory, while apparently forgetting to steer the vehicle during demonstration.

Benz made his first commercial sale in 1887 in Paris, and, within one year, he was employing about fifty men to produce his three-wheeled vehicle. By this time, the Otto four-stroke engine patent had been revoked, and Benz (as well as others) was using four-cycle engines of a design that had been refined by his rival, Daimler. The Benz Company's first four-wheel model, introduced in1893, was powered by a 1.5 HP engine and was capable of 15 mph (24 kph).

In 1899, the successful Benz Company reorganized as a limited company. Four years later, Benz left the company after a lingering dispute with its board of directors. He returned to the company briefly in 1904 but quickly retired to Ladenburg, where he died on April 4, 1929.

The Daimler and Benz companies merged in 1926 to form the Daimler-Benz company, which marketed their products under the Mercedes-Benz nameplate.

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Karl Benz's Timeline

1844
November 25, 1844
Mühlburg, Karlsruhe, Germany
1873
May 1, 1873
Age 28
1874
October 21, 1874
Age 29
1877
August 1, 1877
Age 32
1882
February 2, 1882
Age 37
1890
March 16, 1890
Age 45
1929
April 4, 1929
Age 84
Ladenburg, Germany
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