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Nikolaus Hans Otto

Nikolaus Otto
Born Expression error: Unrecognized punctuation character "{"., Expression error: Unrecognized word "june".(14 June 1832-Expression error: Unrecognized word "june".-{{{3}}})
Holzhausen an der Haide
Died 26 January 1891 (1891-01-27)
Nationality German
Occupation Inventor
Known for internal-combustion engine
Spouse(s) Anna Gossi
Children 7

Nikolaus August Otto (14 June 1832, Holzhausen an der Haide, Nassau - 26 January 1891, Cologne) was the German inventor of the first internal-combustion engine to efficiently burn fuel directly in a piston chamber. Although other internal combustion engines had been invented (e.g. by Étienne Lenoir) these were not based on four separate strokes. The concept of four strokes is likely to have been around at the time of Otto's invention but he was the first to make it practical.

Early years

Otto was the son of a farmer: his father also ran the local post office. He served an apprenticeship in commerce and following his apprenticeship worked as a business man in Frankfurt am Main and in Cologne. After relocating to Cologne he quit his office job in order to construct small gas engines, starting out by seeking to improve on the existing design of Étienne Lenoir.[1]

Otto married Anna Gossi and the couple produced seven recorded children. His son Gustav Otto grew up to become an aircraft builder.

The Otto cycle

The Otto engine was designed as a stationary engine and in the action of the engine, the stroke is an upward or downward movement of a piston in a cylinder. Used later in an adapted form as an automobile engine, four strokes are involved:

  • (1) downward intake stroke—coal-gas and air enter the piston chamber,
  • (2) upward compression stroke—the piston compresses the mixture,
  • (3) downward power stroke—ignites the fuel mixture by electric spark, and
  • (4) upward exhaust stroke—releases exhaust gas from the piston chamber.

Otto only sold his engine as a stationary motor.

Earlier patents

This is a video montage of the Otto engines running at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion (WMSTR), in Rollag, Minnesota. (2min 16sec, 320x240, 340kbit/s video)

According to recent historical studies, the Italian inventors Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci patented a first working efficient version of an internal combustion engine in 1854 in London (pt. Num. 1072). It is claimed that the Otto engine is in many parts at least inspired from this precedent invention [1], but, as yet there is no documentation of knowledge about the Italian engine by Otto. The concept of the four-stroke engine was also patented (October 26 1860) by the Austrian Christian Reithmann for one year and by the french Alphonse Beau de Rochas (January 16 1862).

  • Deutsch: Nikolaus Otto

See also


  1. "Happy Centenary Otto...", Motor vol 149 nbr 3827: page 41. date 14 February 1976. 

External links

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