Birthday: November 25, 1844
Died At Age: 84
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Karl Friedrich Benz
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Mühlburg, Karlsruhe, Germany
Famous as: Entrepreneur
Spouse/Ex-: Bertha Benz (m. 1872)
father: Johann George Benz
mother: Josephine Vaillant
children: Clara Benz, Ellen Benz, Eugen Benz, Richard Benz, SonThilde Benz
Died on: April 4, 1929
place of death: Ladenburg
Notable Alumni: Karlsruhe Institute Of Technology
City: Karlsruhe, Germany
Founder/Co-Founder: Daimler-Benz, Mercedes-Benz
education: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Who was Karl Benz?
Karl Friedrich Benz was an automobile engineer, engine designer, and entrepreneur from Germany who is remembered for designing the first practical automobile in history, Benz Patent Motorcar. He obtained a patent for it in 1886. A Mühlburg native, Benz grew up in an impoverished family after losing his father when he was quite young. Despite this, his mother made sure that he received a proper education. In 1864, he obtained a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Karlsruhe. Benz subsequently spent seven years acquiring professional training in various companies. In 1871, he co-founded his first factory, the Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop in Mannheim, which was later rebranded as Factory for Machines for Sheet-metal Working. During this period, he began developing his early inventions. In 1883, he established the Benz & Cie. to create stationary internal-combustion engines. Following the success of the three-wheeled vehicle, the Motorwagen, the company developed its first four-wheeled car in 1893 and the first of a series of racing cars in 1899. In 1906, Karl founded C. Benz Söhne with his wife and sons. The Benz company united with Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft to create Daimler-Benz, producer of Mercedes-Benz automobiles, in 1926.
Childhood & Early Life
Born Karl Friedrich Michael Vaillant on November 25, 1844, in Mühlburg, Baden, German Confederation (presently Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany), Benz was the son of Josephine Vaillant and Johann Georg Benz.
His father was a locomotive driver. His parents tied the knot a few months after his birth. In accordance with the German laws, he was allowed the usage of the surname “Benz” after that.
At the age of two, he lost his father to pneumonia. He was subsequently renamed Karl Friedrich Benz in memory of his father. His mother struggled to raise her son on her own, but she was adamant of providing him with a good education.
He studied at the local grammar school in Karlsruhe and proved himself to be a prodigious learner. He began attending the scientifically oriented Lyceum when he was nine years old, in 1853. He then attended the Poly-Technical University, where he was taught by Ferdinand Redtenbacher.
His initial plans were to study locksmithing. However, he eventually decided to pursue a degree in locomotive engineering, just like his father. Between 1860 and 1864, he studied mechanical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe.
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Early Career & Marriage
After completing his formal education, Benz received professional training at various companies for seven years. However, he failed to assimilate in all of them. In 1871, he and August Ritter opened the Iron Foundry and Mechanical Workshop in Mannheim, which was later rebranded as Factory for Machines for Sheet-metal Working.
The new company performed poorly in its first year. Benz came to realise that he could not rely on Ritter. This prompted Benz's fiancée, Bertha Ringer, to purchase all of Ritter’s shares in the enterprise using the money from her dowry.
On July 20, 1872, Benz and Ringer exchanged wedding vows. They went on to have five children, Eugen (born 1873), Richard (1874), Clara (1877), Thilde (1882), and Ellen (1890).
Although their business suffered various setbacks, Benz continued to try to develop new engines. For profit, he started making products that could be patented. One of his earliest inventions was a reliable petrol two-stroke engine, which he completed developing on December 31, 1879. On June 28, 1880, he obtained a patent for it.
While developing what later turned out to be the production standard for his two-stroke engine, Benz invented and successfully sought patents for the speed regulation system, the ignition using sparks with battery, the spark plug, the carburettor, the clutch, the gear shift, and the water radiator.
Between 1882 and 1883, he and Bertha worked together with photographer Emil Bühler and his cheese merchant brother on their joint-stock company, Gasmotoren Fabrik Mannheim.
The couple was forced to look for partners due to the high maintenance cost of their enterprise. However, Benz soon came to dislike the arrangement. He only owned 5% of the shares and held a modest rank as the director. His ideas were not even taken into account while creating new products. As a result, he made his departure from the corporation.
Benz & Cie
In 1883, Benz and bicycle repairmen Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eßlinger set up Benz & Companie Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, also known as Benz & Cie. The company experienced rapid growth and started making static gas engines. This success allowed him the chance to get back to his old passion for making horseless carriages.
In 1885, he completed making his first automobile, Benz Patent Motorwagen. The three-wheeled vehicle was designed to produce its own power, the first of its kind. It had a four-stroke engine installed between the rear wheels. Benz obtained a patent for it on January 29, 1886.
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The original vehicle was hard to control. In 1887, Benz introduced the Motorwagen Model 2, a modified version of the first car. Model 3 came out in 1889 and was displayed at that year’s Paris Expo.
In the late summer of 1888, Benz started selling Benz Patent Motorwagen. The first commercially available car in history, about 25 Patent-Motorwagens were made between 1886 and 1893.
The 1888 version was equipped with just two gears and could not go uphill on its own. Benz fixed these shortcomings after Bertha drove a Model 3 for 104 km (65 mi) from Mannheim to Pforzheim, making the world’s first long-distance journey by automobile. This famous trip is commemorated by The Bertha Benz Memorial Route that opened in September 2008.
During the final years of the 19th century, Benz & Cie. had become the largest automobile company in the world. In 1899, they put out 572 units. Due to the expansion, the enterprise was turned into a joint-stock company after Friedrich von Fischer and Julius Ganß joined as members of the Board of Management.
Benz designed the Victoria, a less expensive vehicle perfect for mass production in 1893; the Velo, which took part in the world’s first automobile race in 1894; the first truck with an internal combustion engine in 1895; and the first motor buses in 1895. He received a patent for his design of the first flat engine in 1896.
Following the implementation of several decisions that he did not agree with, Benz retired from his position in design management on January 24, 1903. However, he continued to serve as the director on the Board of Management through its incorporation with Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) in 1926, and was part of the board of the new Daimler-Benz corporation until his death in 1929.
In 1926, the first vehicles under the Mercedes-Benz brand name were made.
Running C. Benz SÃ¶hne
In 1906, Benz, Bertha, and their two sons Eugen and Richard established C. Benz Söhne in Ladenburg, which made automobiles and gas engines. He quit the company in 1912, leaving it to Eugen and Richard.
In 1984, Benz posthumously became an inductee into the Automotive Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the European Automotive Hall of Fame.
Death & Legacy
Karl Benz passed away from a bronchial inflammation at his home in Ladenburg on April 4, 1929. He was 84 years old at the time. He is interred in Ladenburg Cemetery, Ladenburg, Germany.
The Benz family’s home in Ladenburg has since been turned into a historic and scientific gathering place for the Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz Foundation, a non-profit initiative.
Mercedes-Benz has become one of the best-known luxury car manufacturers in the world.
In 2011, the story of Benz and Bertha was made into the telefilm ‘Carl & Bertha’.