Karlsruhe Redtenbacher Collection of Mechanical Movements

Ferdinand Redtenbacher (1809-1863) was born in Steyr, Austria. After his study of mechanical engineering at the Polytechnikum Vienna, Austria, he became an assistant at the same institution. He then took a position in Mathematics at the Obere Industrieschule in Zurich, Switzerland. In 1841 he accepted an invitation to join the Polytechnische Schule of Karlsruhe, Germany which is the oldest Technische Hochschule of Germany founded in 1825. His leadership at Karlsruhe ultimately secured Redtenbacher’s fame. He is seen today as the founder of the teaching of scientific mechanical engineering that is a symbiosis between mathematics, physics and practical engineering applications. Under Redtenbacher’s directorate, Karlsruhe became world famous and a model for engineering education in other universities. Famous students of Redtenbacher included Franz Reuleaux, who created the modern theory of machine mechanisms and Carl Benz, the inventor of one of the first automobiles. Some of the mechanisms in Benz’s first auto can be found among the models of Redtenbacher’s collection.

During Redtenbacher’s tenure in Karlsruhe, he introduced internships in industry as a part of the study of engineering. He also presented students and visitors examples of engineering applications in form of models that were produced in the workshop of the Polytechnische Schule. In 1857 he published the book "Die Bewegungs-Mechanismen: Darstellung und Beschreibung eines Theiles der Maschinen-Modell-Sammlung der Polytechnischen Schule in Carlsruhe" : [Motion-Producing Mechanisms: Presentation and Description of Part of the Machine Model Collection at the Polytechnical University of Karlsruhe] with a supplement in 1861 to be put together in a later edition of 1866. The 80 kinematic mechanisms were primarily envisioned as the third part of a more encompassing machine model collection (machine elements, work pieces, mechanisms and complete machines/apparatus’). He mentioned in his book, that all the models were manufactured by a mechanic by the name of Vietz of Karlsruhe.

Today the Collection at Karlsruhe contains not only models described by Redtenbacher in his 1857 book, but also other machines and mechanisms created at Karlsruhe by Redtenbacher and later professors. The Collection also has a few mechanisms from the Berlin Voigt Catalog of Reuleaux models that are also featured in KMODDL. Ferdinand Redtenbacher clearly influenced his student Franz Reuleaux who created an even larger collection of 800 kinematic models at the Technical University of Berlin in the late 19th century, many of which can be seen on the KMODDL website.

The surviving models of the Redtenbacher Collection at the Universität Karlsruhe (TH) can be seen in the Institut für Kolbenmaschinen (Combustion engines) of the Fakultät für Maschinenbau (mechanical engineering department). The Karlsruhe Redtenbacher Collection includes numerous kinematic mechanisms for rotary and reciprocating engines as well as mechanisms for producing mathematical functions.