Friedrich Karl von Drais – Father of the Bicycle

Friedrich Karl von Drais was remembered as the pioneer of the bicycle concept. As an inventor, he wanted to make civilization more progress. He sought it by revolutionizing individual transportation, making each travel quicker, cheaper and more convenient.

invention was considered futuristic for his time. Unfortunately, it was too futuristic, due to lack of road infrastructure. See his story unfold, as he created an invention too advanced for his era.

Starting Out Humbly

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Friedrich Karl von Drais was born in Baden, 9th of April 1785. His family isn’t well off but wasn’t impoverished either. He had a good relationship with his family, but his godfather was the most influential person in his young life.

After graduating from a private school, he went to become a forestry officer due to his godfather’s influence. Under the employment of his uncle, he made enough to study mathematics, physics, and architecture.

His career as a forestry officer was successful and he even got an offer to be a forest administration member. But he couldn’t keep this career, because he wanted to teach and invent.

From Forest Officer to Inventor

He wasn’t a forest administrator, but he was still a forest officer. He needed that job to add funds towards his research and inventing. He then moved to Mannheim just like what his family did a few years prior. Although off duty, he still received salaries to support his projects.

In 1812, he made his earliest invention which is a piano recording device which recorded music from a piano on a paper. This invention wasn’t publicized as much as his next one, which caught Europe’s attention.

The Two-Wheeled Wonder

His invention started from an idea of fast individual transportation. This went into action because horses are becoming rarer and more expensive due to a famine in 1812. He then devised a contraption which was the Velocipede.

He then eagerly presented his invention during his mathematics paper publishing in Vienna. When people saw it, they saw potential. Its speed is lacking, but it was horseless and cheap, so it definitively caught everyone’s eye.

Too Advanced for It’s Time

Sadly, Velocipede didn’t last very long. Firstly, Friedrich Karl von Drais couldn’t sell his invention. Reason for this was that he couldn’t lead a private company as a civil servant. The Duke of Baden himself only gave him a decree to protect his invention for 10 years.

Secondly, it was because of unsupported infrastructures. 19th-century roads are full of crevices and holes, making it almost impossible for the two-wheeled Velocipede to stay balanced. This forced the vehicle to use the pedestrian path.

It was dangerous to use it on a pedestrian path since it didn’t have any brakes and way too fast to use it beside other people. Soon enough, people lost interest and abandon the vehicle completely.

A Bitter End

He was anointed as professor and given pension by the Duke of Baden. He kept inventing many human-powered vehicles but none succeed.

Finally, Friedrich Karl von Drais died impoverished on December 10th, 1851 in after his pension funds were confiscated by the invading Prussians. He died pennilessly, but his legacy stayed forever.

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