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Karl Freiherr von Drais was a Germanforest official and significant inventor in the Biedermeier period.

Drais was a prolific inventor, who invented the Laufmaschine (“running machine”), also later called the Velocipede, Draisine (English) or draisienne (French), also nicknamed the hobby horse or dandy horse. This was his most popular and widely recognized invention. It incorporated the two-wheeler principle that is basic to the bicycle and motorcycle and was the beginning of mechanized personal transport. This was the earliest form of a bicycle, without pedals. His first reported ride from Mannheim to the “Schwetzinger Relaishaus”  took place on 12 June 1817 using Baden’s best road. Karl rode his bike; it was a distance of about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi). The round trip took him a little more than an hour, but may be seen as the big bang for horseless transportation. However, after marketing the Velocipede it became apparent that roads were so rutted by carriages that it was hard to balance on the machine for long, so Velocipede riders took to the sidewalks and moved far too quickly, endangering pedestrians. Consequently, authorities in Germany, Great Britain, the United States, and even Calcutta banned its use, which ended its vogue for decades.

Drais also invented the earliest typewriter with a keyboard (1821). He later developed an early stenograph machine which used 16 characters (1827), a device to record piano music on paper (1812), the first meat grinder, and a wood-saving cooker including the earliest hay chest. He also invented two four-wheeled human powered vehicles (1813/1814), the second of which he presented in Vienna to the congress carving up Europe after Napoleon’s defeat. In later years he developed a foot-driven human powered railroad vehicle(1840?) whose name “Draisine” is used even today for railroad handcars.

Drais was unable to market his inventions for profit because he was still a civil servant of Baden, even though he was being paid without providing active service. As a result, on 12 January 1818, Drais was awarded a grand-ducal privilege(Großherzogliches Privileg) to protect his inventions for 10 years in Baden by the younger Grand Duke Karl. Grand Duke Karl also appointed Drais Professor of Mechanics. This was merely an honorary title, not related to any university or other institution. Drais retired from the civil service and was awarded a pension for his appointment to Professor for Mechanical Science.

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