The German mechanical engineer Gottlieb Daimler (1834-1900) was a pioneer in the development of the internal combustion engine and the automobile.
Gottlieb Daimler was born on March 17, 1834, at Schorndorf near Stuttgart. He attended a technical school (1848-1852) in Stuttgart while serving as a gunsmith's apprentice. After 4 years (1853-1857) at a Strassburg steam engine factory, he completed his training as a mechanical engineer at the Stuttgart Polytechnic. He returned to Strassburg in 1859, but 2 years later, having recognized the need for a small, low-power engine capable of economic intermittent operation, he left to tour France and England. In Paris he saw E. Lenoir's new gas engine.
Daimler spent the next decade in heavy engineering. He joined Bruderhaus Maschinen-Fabrik in Reutlingen as manager in 1863 and there met Wilhelm Maybach, with whom he was to collaborate closely for the rest of his life. Daimler went to Maschinenbau Gesellschaft in Karlsruhe as director in 1869. When he joined Gasmotoren-Fabrik in Deutz as chief engineer in 1872, Daimler, N. A. Otto, and Eugen Langen perfected the Otto atmospheric (oil) engine. Daimler was asked by the Deutz board in 1875 to develop a gasoline-powered version, but this idea was dropped in favor of commercial exploitation of the four-cycle Otto engine.
In 1882 Daimler and Maybach set up a factory in Stuttgart to develop light, high-speed, gasoline-powered internal combustion engines. Their aim from the start appears to have been to apply these engines to vehicles. During their early trials it seemed that ignition troubles were insurmountable, but in 1883 Daimler developed and patented a reliable self-firing ignition system using an incandescent tube in the cylinder head. Maybach worked to reduce the size while increasing the economy, and by 1885 their first gasoline-powered engine was fitted to a motorcycle. That year a more powerful, water-cooled unit was fitted into a carriage. They then developed a two-cylinder V engine, applied it to a motor car, and exhibited it at the 1889 Paris Exhibition. Though the public took little notice of the vehicle, it did attract R. Panhard and E. Lavassor, who developed the engine in France and began to manufacture automobiles in 1891.
In Germany the need for more capital led to the creation of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft mbH (1890), but business disagreements led Daimler and Maybach to break away in 1893 and continue experimental development alone. They entered endurance trials and road races to establish the utility of the automobile and showed the way so clearly that Daimler returned to his company in full control in 1895. He died in Stuttgart on March 6, 1900.
Perhaps the best recent study of Daimler is in Eugen Diesel and others, From Engines to Autos: Five Pioneers in Engine Development (1960).