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Automobile.

Until the invention of the steam engine (see 1712), the dream of a carriage that would move without a horse pulling it (a "horseless carriage") had belonged to the world of myths and legends. The steam-engine is supposed to have been put into action as early as 1769, but such steam-powered vehicles were bulky, clumsy, and slow. Even fairly advanced ones, built much later, took time to start, because water had to be heated and boiled first.

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The coming of the internal-combustion engine, especially the Otto four-stroke engine (see 1876), offered a much better hope. What was needed now was an appropriate fuel, and eventually that turned out to be gasoline, a petroleum fraction with smaller molecules than those of kerosene, so that it vaporized more easily and burned more readily.

The first working automobile with a gasoline-burning internal-combustion engine was built in early 1885 by a German mechanical engineer, Carl Friedrich Benz (1844-1929). Its wheels looked like bicycle wheels, and there were three of them, a smaller one in front and two larger ones in back. It ran at a speed of 9 miles per hour, and it was the forerunner of all that was to follow.

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Author:Asimov, Isaac
Publication:Asimov's Chronology of Science & Discovery, Updated ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1994
Words:200
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