Physics/History GCSE: The invention of the internal combustion engine

Michael Mosley, Cassie Newland and Mark Miodownik describe the scientific achievements of Nicklaus Otto, Karl Benz and Henry Ford.

Prior to this the steam locomotive had started a revolution. Richard Trevithick’s design had a boiler but this was removed to make the internal combustion engine.

The German inventor Nicklaus Otto developed the first four stroke engine in 1876. This could not be developed until kerosene, diesel and petrol were used in place of coal. Karl Benz then developed the World’s first car using Otto’s design.

Within 15 years cars were so popular that there were no more horses on London’s streets. Henry Ford then built the Model T in 1913 using the first assembly line (stationary workers and the product moved to them). This method changed the way we manufacture.

This clip is from the series The Genius of Invention.

Teacher Notes

This clip would be ideally suited to showing students the significant achievements of Otto, Benz and Ford.

It could set the scene for a project on this or other famous historical scientists.

Students could stain their written work with tea bags to make it look as if it were written many years ago.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Physics and History. This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

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