The man widely credited with pioneering the modern automobile industry apparently did not like to drive and may never have driven at all.
Certainly Gottlieb Daimler was a passenger in 1899 during a rough, bad-weather journey that accelerated his declining health and contributed to his death the next spring.
Daimler did not invent the internal combustion engine, but he improved it. With his partner Wilhelm Maybach, he made engines small, lightweight and fast-running, which made the automotive revolution possible.
Daimler was born in Schomdorf, Germany, in 1834. Early in his engineering career, he became convinced steam engines were an outmoded form of power, and he started building experimental gas engines.
He was difficult to get along with, and he left a series of engineering firms because they did not share his vision or his work ethic. At one of them he met Maybach, a man who understood him. Maybach became his partner, inseparable friend and engineering soulmate.
In Cannstatt, Germany, he and Maybach patented their four-stroke engine in 1885. That same year, they created what was probably the world's first motorcycle by mounting a Daimler engine on a bicycle. In 1886, they adapted an engine to a horse carriage.
In 1889, they made their first purpose-built automobile and founded Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft. Ten years later, Maybach designed the first car named Mercedes, after his daughter.
During this time, Daimler was persuaded by a group of investors to take his company public. They seized majority control and eventually blackmailed him into selling his own shares. Daimler became bitter.
With his health failing in the autumn of 1899, he was told to stay in bed, but the workaholic insisted on being driven in bad weather to inspect a possible factory site. On the way home he collapsed and fell out of the car. He died with his family around him.