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Who Invented the Motorboat?

Daimler Motorboat AdWe all know that Fulton invented the steamboat, Daimler and Maybach invented the automobile and the Wright brothers invented the airplane.

But who invented the motorboat?

That depends on who you ask.

Some historians credit auto inventors Gottlieb Daimler and his partner, Wilhelm Maybach, as the inventors of the motorboat. Just one year after they built the first successful “horseless carriage,” Daimler and Maybach tested a small internal combustion engine on a boat on Germany’s River Neckar. The year was 1886.

Other historians credit the first motorboat to French-Belgian engineer Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir, who invented the first commercially successful internal combustion engine back in 1858. In 1865, Lenoir installed a gasoline-powered engine on a boat owned by French newspaper manager M. Dalloz, beating Daimler and Maybach by 21 years.

So why the argument?

There are three reasons.

Reason One: When it comes to technology, “first” is a meaningless term. Like life-forms, inventions evolve. Inventors take existing products and modify them. Change them. Combine them. Hopefully, improve them. When a boat becomes a boat with a motor and then an actual motorboat can be difficult if not impossible to determine.

Reason Two: Money talks. When we say something was the “first,” we usually mean it was the first of its kind to be commercially successful. For example, Daimler and Maybach weren’t the first people to motorize a wheeled vehicle, but they were the first to make an ongoing business out of it. So they get the credit. Likewise, Lenoir may have been the first person to motorize a boat, but it was basically a one-shot idea that didn’t go anywhere. By contrast, Daimler and Maybach’s motorboats become part of their company’s product catalog. So they usually get the credit for this, too.

Reason Three: The two engines were significantly different. Lenoir’s engine was a coal-and-petrol-powered inboard that was a permanent part of the vessel. Daimler and Maybach’s engine was a pure gasoline-powered outboard motor that could be removed at will.

So maybe we should credit all three of them!

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If you’d like a career working on outboard motors, inboard engines and other marine power systems, consider the Marine Specialist program at WyoTech in Daytona Beach, Fla. WyoTech’s 12-month Marine Specialist program provides hands-on instruction in a variety of essential areas, including:

  • Vessel Power Transmission
  • Inboard Engine Propulsion Systems
  • Diesel Engines, Power Generation and Marine Electronics
  • Outboard Engine Propulsion Systems

The school features a large, modern workshop where students working in small groups get hands-on training in a variety of well-known marine motors and power systems. Upon graduation, WyoTech’s Career Services department can help students identify and contact employers all over the country, employers who know and respect the school’s long-standing reputation for education excellence.

For more information about WyoTech’s Marine Specialist program, contact WyoTech today!

Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

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