IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GOTTLIEB DAIMLER
FIRST FOUR-WHEELED AUTOMOBILE IN THE WORLD
It’s the year 1886. A new invention will change the world. For the first time, Gottlieb Daimler, born in tranquil Schorndorf, is presenting a moving car without horses – his “motor coach” with the high-speed gasoline engine he invented. This motor car is considered the first four-wheeled automobile in the world. Together with Carl Benz, who at the same time constructed a three-wheeled motor car, Daimler and Benz are considered the pioneers of automobile construction at the end of the 19th century.
BIBLE VERSE OF HIS CONFIRMATION
‘Stay with what you have learned and what is entrusted to you.’
2 Tim. 3:14
Gottlieb Daimler grew up in a pietistic home in Schorndorf. In the spring of 1848 he was confirmed in the Schorndorf town church. As saying of his confirmation he was given the Bible verse from 2 Tim. 3:14.1 In the verses 16 and 17 it goes on to say: ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.’
LIFE BETWEEN PIETISM AND LIBERAL THEOLOGY
The fact that ‘the scripture is God-given’ was vehemently opposed by liberal theologians at the time of the young Daimler. Above all, it was David Friedrich Strauss, who propagated in 1835 with his book ‘The Life of Jesus’ the demythologization of the Bible and the history of salvation. This two-volume work with more than 1,400-pages was ‘like a terrible earthquake’ across Europe and was described by critics as ‘the most corrupt book’ that ‘hell ever spit out of its throat’.2
While within the church and at the universities in the time of the young Daimlers it was considered chic and scientific to question the divine origin of the Bible, in Schorndorf Pietism shaped civil and ecclesiastical life.3 The former Special Superintendent (today Dean) of Schorndorf, Friedrich August Baur, noted in his visitation reports: ‘Pietism is of importance in scope and influence, it is a decisive force for the bourgeois and ecclesiastical community’. Even the young Daimler knew the Pietist ‘hour people’, attended their weekly meetings 200 citizens (with a city population of 4,000 at that time).
HIS CHILDREN ATTEND PIETISTIC SCHOOL
Impressed by the diligence and conscience of his pious compatriots, Daimler later entrusted the education of his daughters to pietistic institutions. It was important to him ‘that every one of his children should be religiously educated and participate in church services and church celebrations’.4
At that time, the Pietist schools were a sure wall of protection against the corrosive influences of modern theology that human reason set over God. The daughters of Daimler were housed in the pietistic boarding school in Königsfeld in the Black Forest.
HIS REFERENCE TO CHRISTIAN FAITH
The spiritual attitude of his parents’ house, in which Daimler grew up, becomes visible in what his grandmother Wilhelmine (died July 9, 1875) had once left on books: two hymnals, a Bible and a ‘Paradiesgärtlein’ (famous painting from about 1410 by an unrecognized painter from the Upper Rhine), two sermon books and three prayer books written by various Pietist ministers.
We do not know which spiritual impulses Gottlieb Daimler took from his hometown Schorndorf into the ‘wide world’. His work and studies took him to France and England. Violent disappointments with important business partners were not spared him. In the midst of a critical situation in his life, he wrote to his wife Emma on March 15, 1872:
‘In such cases there is no one for us who can better advise us than the one who is living in heaven, to whom we shall turn our eyes upward.’
On March 6, 1900, Gottlieb Daimler died in Bad Cannstatt near Stuttgart and was buried there on the Uff churchyard. His tombstone contains the engraved lettering ‘Psalm 37, 6’.
The verses 1-7 of Psalm 37 read:
‘Don’t be upset because of sinful people. Don’t be jealous of those who do wrong. Like grass, they will soon dry up. Like green plants, they will soon die. Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live in the land and enjoy its food. Find your delight in the Lord. Then he will give you everything your heart really wants. Commit your life to the Lord. Here is what he will do if you trust in him. He will make your godly ways shine like the dawn. He will make your honest life shine like the sun at noon. Be still. Be patient. Wait for the Lord to act. Don’t be upset when other people succeed. Don’t be upset when they carry out their evil plans.’
The contents of this section are taken from the article ‘Das Wort Gottes im religiösen Umfeld von Gottlieb Daimler’ by Martin Landmesser, which was published in 2013 in the newsletter of the ‘Evangelische Karmelmission e.V.’ (Protestant Carmel Mission) in issue 01/13. There again, reference is made to the following sources:
1 Rolf Scheffbuch: ‚Pietismus an Rems und Murr‘. Lecture given on May 17, 1990 – published in: Series ‚Typisch im Rems-Murr-Kreis – Wissenswertes über Struktur, Wirtschaft, Kultur und Geschichte‘, Waiblingen 1990; Paul Siebertz: Gottlieb Daimler, ein Revolutionär der Technik, p. 292, Stuttgart 1950.
2 The Christian Spectator, Bd. VII, p. 367, London 1866.
3 Landeskirchliches Archiv Stuttgart, A29-4082 (cited by Rolf Scheffbuch: Das kirchliche Schorndorf um die Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts – A contribution to the Daimler commemorative year 1984, Schorndorf 1984).
4 Paul Siebertz: Gottlieb Daimler, ein Revolutionär der Technik, p. 301, Stuttgart 1950.