April 3: Gottlieb Daimler patented his “grandfather clock” engine on this date in 1885

When children read about inventors in grade school, they can seem almost omnipotent, often solving problems with superhuman insight. In reality, the greatest inventors are less like soloists and more like DJs — remixing others' ideas with their own through grinding research. When Gottlieb Daimler and his partner William Maybach began working on building a four-stroke combustion engine in 1882, they started with the patents of those who had gone before, borrowing ideas from British engineer William Watson and fellow German Nikolaus Otto. Their innovations domesticated the explosive power of a four-stroke device in a "grandfather clock" engine light enough to mount in a vehicle for the first time. Were Daimler around to investigate the engines from his eponymous firm today, he'd recognize much of what he patented in 1885 — improved by thousands of other inventors since. Here's what his machine sounded like:

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