Through incredible, lesser-known stories of familiar history, the PBS series Breakthrough – The Ideas That Changed the World captures the secrets of today’s world through surprising accidents, colorful characters, and moments of joy and despair.
In the fourth episode, The Car, explore the history of the automobile, from its roots in dogsleds to scientists working on the next generation of self-driving cars.
Breakthrough – The Ideas That Changed The World: The Car premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 on Wisconsin Public Television.
Read on to discover how 9,000 years of innovation set the stage for a machine that continues to excite and move us.
The Car explores how Bertha Benz, Karl Benz’s wife, played an instrumental role in the public success of his invention and what is considered the first-ever car, the “motorwagen.” After experiencing disappointing sales and a determination to prove the inventions worth, Bertha embarked on the first long-distance car trip. The 66-mile trip provided immense public exposure for her husband’s invention and ultimately led to the car’s first sales.
The episode also uncovers how a trip to a Chicago slaughterhouse made by William Klann, one of Henry Ford’s senior employees, led to the development of Ford’s revolutionary automobile production assembly line. It was at the meatpacking plant that Klann witnessed a “disassembly line” in which each worker had a specialized role that was accomplished before passing along the meat carcass to another worker, who performed a separate specialized task. This method was brought back to Ford, reversed and adapted for car production. The process produced cars more efficiently and brought down costs, resulting in a more affordable car and an automobile revolution.
Tune in 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 to explore these stories and more!
Enjoy this series? Watch the previous three episodes online:
Meet the brilliant minds throughout history, from Galileo to Edwin Hubble, responsible for creating the telescope. Today, their invention allows humanity to reach the furthest limits of seeing – 13 billion light-years out.
Take to the sky with the dreamers whose work gave humans the ability to fly. From Leonardo da Vinci’s “flying machines” to the modern commercial plane, without these inventions, we may have never left the ground.
Learn how robots were first conceptualized in ancient Rome and see how their use has evolved over the centuries, from the calculator to the Roomba. Then, take a sneak peek at what future robots will be able to do.
And don’t forget to tune in for the final two episodes, airing 8 p.m. Wednesdays: