Karl Friedrich Benz (1844 – 1929)

Karl Benz designed and built the fist practical motorcar to be powered by an internal combustion. He was born in Karlsruhe, the son of a railway engine driver, and educated in the same city. After several jobs, including one in Vienna, where he failed to settle, he set up an iron foundry with August Ritter in 1871. His partner proved unreliable, and Benz had to use his wife`s dowry to purchase control of the whole company.

He experimented with two-stroke engines during the 1870s, and in 1879 made his first practical engine, on which he took out patents. He established Benz & Cie, Rheinishche Gasmotrenfabrik (Rhineland Gas Engine Works) in Mannheim in 1882, but withdrew from the company the next year to found Benz Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik. His first working motorcar, a three-wheeler, now preserved in Munich, was completed in 1885 and patented in 1886. Benz subsequently manufactured and sold the car, the first motor vehicle that was available commercially. He made his first four-wheel car in 1893, after which the company produced the Benz Velo car on a regular basis, making 572 in the year 1899.

He ceased to be active in his company in 1903, which produced 3480 vehicles in the following year, but remained a member of its board until it was merged with Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft in 1926, and of the board of that company till his death. Between 1906 and 1923 he was also concerned, with his son Eugen, with another car-making company Benz-Sohne. Benz`s mansion at Ladenburg, 10 km E Mannheim, is conserved and is the headquarters of the Gottlieb Daimler & Karl Benz Stiftung (Foundation), established in 1986, which promotes research, especially interdisciplinary enquiries into the relationships between society, the environment and technology.