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He Was Right, But He Wasn't

I just got done watching the Presidential address to Congress and immediately followed this up with a quick view of the online major networks new sites. Overall I thought the speech was very good and showed the President Obama that was lacking from his press room speech a few weeks back. The one part I cringed at was when President Obama gave credit to the United States for creation of the automobile. This was no major cringe, however, because really we were the first inventors of the automobile. But then again we weren't.

I figured I would let it all slide until I saw the Fox News website article "Obama Errs in Saying Americans Invented Automobiles". Being a Republican I hate being represented by a news outlet like Fox News. Their views and misinformation not only tend to make Republicans look bad, but make me ashamed. Anyway, that is another story.

The real story is that Fox News was quick to point out, "...his grasp of automotive history suggests he could use a refresher course...The problem: The credit for internal combustion engines generally is given to German engineer, Karl Benz, who designed and built the world's first practical automobile in 1885." Frankly, that is inaccurate. Apparently, the Fox News people, Gary Gastelu and Mike Majchrowitz in particular, need a refresher on automotive history. So here ya go Mike and Gary...

As the article did point out, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot invented the steam powered automobile in 1769. Unfortunately, that is up for debate as Ferdinand Verbiest reportedly built a steam powered automobile in 1672, almost 100 years prior to Cugnot. So maybe Cugnot didn't invent it. For sake of argument, we will stick with speaking about internal combustion engine automobiles; otherwise we wind up going back even further.

The first internal combustion engine automobile was invented by George Selden in 1877 (a resident of Rochester, NY; which if I am not mistaken is in the United States. Or maybe I need a geography refresher). Several years prior to Karl Benz' four stroke combustion engine. The problem was that George Selden's automobile was never put into production and he eventually lost his patent rights. If I am not mistaken, that would make the United States the "nation that invented the automobile." That is the actual quote from President Obama, incase you were wondering. Not built; "invented."

And now to correct Fox's quote. The internal combustion engine was invented by François Isaac de Rivaz in 1806. If you cannot do the math that is 38 years prior to the birth of Karl Benz. Not only was Benz an inventor, but according to Gary Gastelu, Mike Majchrowitz and the Fox News network, he was also a time traveler.

So was President Obama right or wrong? Well, both. It is easy to assume he was referring to internal combustion engine automobiles. Thus, he was correct. This nation did invent them. But the automobile in general, well there he would be wrong. No matter which way you assume for that particular section of the President's speech; Fox News, Mike Majchrowitz and Gary Gastelu were wrong. And I can live with that.


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