Subject: biography, technology and manufacturing
German engineer who designed internal-combustion engines of relatively advanced performance for cars, developing the motor car possibly more than Carl Benz, (who had run a car at an earlier date).
Born at Schorndorf near Stuttgart on 17 March 1834, Daimler's technical education began in 1848 when he became a gunsmith's apprentice. Following a period at technical school in Stuttgart and factory experience in a Strasbourg engineering works, he completed his formal training as a mechanical engineer at the Stuttgart Polytechnic in 1859. He returned to Grafenstadt to do practical work for a while and then, sponsored by a leading Stuttgart benefactor, travelled to England where he worked for Joseph Whitworth. He then moved to France, where he may have seen Lenoir's newly developed gas engine.
Daimler spent the next ten years in heavy engineering. He joined Bruderhaus Maschinen-Fabrik in Reutlingen as manager in 1863, and there met Wilhelm Maybach, with whom he was to be closely involved for the rest of his life.
Daimler's work on the internal-combusition engine began in earnest in 1872 when he teamed up with Nikolaus August Otto, (later to become famous for the Otto cycle) and Peter Langen, at the Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz where Daimler was technical director. One of Daimler's first moves was to sign up Maybach as chief designer. Daimler was to work with Otto and Langen for the next ten years, studying gas engines (which resulted in Otto's historic patent of 1876) and perhaps also petrol engines.
Differences of opinion led to Daimler leaving the firm in 1881. After making a brief trip to Russia to study oil, he returned to Germany and bought a house in Cannstatt, a suburb of Stuttgart. It was in the summer house of this building that Daimler's first engines were built.
When he started work with Maybach, gas engines were being operated at 150-250 rpm. Daimler's first working petrol-fuelled unit, built in 1883, was an air-cooled, single-cylinder engine with a large cast-iron flywheel running at 900 rpm. With four times the number of power strokes per unit time, his engine had a very much greater output for a given size and weight. In itself, the use of petrol was not new: in 1870 Julius Hock in Vienna had built an engine working on Lenoir's principle. A piston drew in half-a-cylinder-full of mixture, which was fired when the piston was halfway down the cylinder. Without compression, the power produced was very low and the fuel consumption massive.
The genius of Daimler and Maybach lay in combining four of the elements essential to the modern car engine: the four-stroke Otto cycle, the vaporization of the fuel with a device similar to a carburettor, low weight, and high speeds. Lenoir had used electric ignition, but this proved unreliable; Daimler and Maybach used an igniter tube that was light, worked well, and operated independently of engine speed.
Daimler's second engine, which ran later the same year, was a 0.4-kW/0.5-hp vertical unit. It was fitted to a cycle in November 1885, (possibly even earlier) creating the world's first motor cycle. Daimler was apparently not impressed with the possibilities of motorized two-wheelers and went on to try his engine as the power source for a boat.
In 1889 Daimler produced two cars, and obtained a licence for Panhard and Levassor in Paris to sell them. The first was a light four-wheeler with a tubular frame and a vertical, single-cylinder, water-cooled engine in the rear. It also featured a novel four-speed gear transmission to the rear wheels, and engine-cooling water circulated through the frame, which acted as a radiator. The second car of 1889 had a belt drive and a vee-twin engine.
The two cars are important in that they show that Daimler had revised his earlier opinion that motor cars should be straight conversions of horsedrawn carriages. (Benz, on the other hand, had conceived his vehicle for motor-drive from the outset; nevertheless, Daimler's models were in many ways more advanced than the contemporary Benz models).
In 1886, Daimler approached Sarazin, a representative of Otto and Langen at the Deutz works, eager to increase sales of his engines overseas. Sarazin persuaded Panhard and Levassor to manufacture Daimler engines under licence, but died before they went into production. The firm succeeded in entering the motor industry with the Daimler licence, following the marriage of Levassor to Sarazin's widow in 1890.
The Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft was also founded in 1890, but Daimler and Maybach both retired the following year to concentrate on technical and commercial development work, only to rejoin in 1895.
A Daimler-powered car won the 1894 Paris to Rouen race, the first international motor contest, organized to promote the concept of motoring. Six years after this great success, on 6 March 1900, Daimler died from heart disease, and was buried in Cannstatt.
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