Happy Birthday, Karl Drais!

Two Hundred and Sixty Three years ago on this day today Baron Karl Friedrich Christian Ludwig Drais von Sauerbronn (later known as Karl Drais) was born in the town of Karlsruhe.

Wait, who’s that?

Well, no one else than the inventor of the first “bicycle – like” vehicle, the so called “Draisine”. But first things first, let’s start at the beginning:

Karl Drais was born into a family of civil servant nobleman, which means that his family was part of the aristocracy but didn’t own a specific county or property. They had to work for a nobleman of higher rank to generate an income and make a living, in their case the Grand Duke of Baden.

In his student days, Karl didn’t show much interest in learning latin, which would qualify him for jobs as a doctor or lawyer. He was more of the science and mathematics type of students. Because of that, Karl was chosen to become a forester in the county of the Grand Duke of Baden. After he finished his forester education, Karl decided to follow his interests and study mathematics, physics and engineering at the university of Heidelberg.
Karl’s time in Heidelberg got interrupted early, two years after he got there. However, these studies probably helped him a lot, as he brought his various ideas to life.

And Karl had a lot of ideas during his lifetime. The greatest one of them, was the so called “Laufmaschine” (engl. “running machine”) or “Draisine”.
In the 19th century – where horses were people’s #1 choice as a vehicle, but suddenly a not reliable one, because of numerous bad harvests and a gigantic horse dying, that was caused by it – the “Draisine” was Karl Drais’ groundbreaking solution, that made sure to still get people from A to B.

I’ll be writing about Karl’s “Laufmaschine” in other posts, however here’s a short description of it:

The “Draisine” basically looked like a wooden bicycle without pedals. It already did have a steering, was powered by the riders feet and, believe it or not, already had something close to 28″ wheels.

In early 19th century the word “Bicycle” or “Cycling” didn’t even exist, so it’s hard to think about the tons of imagination it took Karl Drais to work out an entirely new mobility system.

So, let’s take a quick moment today, to celebrate Karl Drais’ fantastic invention!

Happy Birthday to you, Karl Drais!
And thanks for inventing bicycles, they’re still the coolest way to get from A to B!


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