The 1800s German Jew introduced a liquid-fuel breakthrough
It sure is amazing. I just saw a TV report showing a self-driving car safely navigating the streets and eventually parking itself. So, can you imagine people’s reaction, way back in the late 1800s, when they saw one of the first cars on the street?
The person who generally gets credit for inventing the very first road vehicle is Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, a French military engineer, who in 1769, built a steam-driven three-wheeler designed to pull artillery. Other inventors followed with steam-driven and coal gas models, but most engineers describe the first true car as “one driven by liquid fuel.” Fulfilling this breakthrough was Siegfried Marcus, a German Jew and prolific inventor, who spent most of his life in Austria.
Starting as a 12-year old machine-shop apprentice, Marcus blossomed in the telegraph industry, eventually improving telegraphic relay systems and gaining recognition as an “up-and-coming engineer.”
One of his most well-known inventions was the T-handled plunger device used by mining and construction companies, which safely detonated explosives. By the 1860s, money from Marcus’ successful inventions allowed him to build his own research laboratory, where he could experiment with whatever he chose.
While using liquid fuels for ignition purposes, Marcus understood the force that developed when sparks ignited, enabling him to build a two-cycle engine. He mounted his motor to the rear wheels of a four-wheel cart, providing the basis for a motor-driven cart.
Finally, in 1888, Marcus announced his much improved car. Sporting a four-cycle, gasoline powered engine, the “auto-mobile” reached a top speed of 10 miles per hour.
For a brief time, Siegfried Marcus was celebrated as the inventor of the first automobile. However, when he was to be honored by the Austrian Auto Club, he surprisingly declined to attend, stating that the idea of the auto was a waste of time. And, interestingly enough, he made no further effort to perfect and market his car. I suppose once he accomplished what he set out to do, there was no longer a challenge.
Thirty-five years after Marcus died, and soon after Hitler came to power, evidence of the inventor’s achievements disappeared. Blueprints, files, and patents of Marcus and other Jews were destroyed. The Nazis attempted to destroy all evidence of Jewish achievements, including a monument honoring Marcus at the Vienna Technical University.
In 1950, Marcus’ second car was found where it had been hidden: bricked up behind a false wall of a Viennese museum by employees to protect it from Nazi destruction. Siegfried Marcus’ second car is now on permanent display at the Vienna Technical Museum.
While the Viennese support Siegfried Marcus as the inventor of the first car, most auto historians give credit to Gottlieb Daimler (1885) for the first modern engine and Carl Benz (1886) for the first gasoline-fueled car.
But Marcus, the Jewish inventor, also deserves to be remembered as one of the first inventors of the automobile.