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  • There are many surprising stories on the stage of world history.

  • The invention of the automobile is one.

  • And, so, our play begins.

  • In the 1670s, Ferdinand Verbiest was a Flemish Missionary and scientist.

  • He was sent to visit the court of the Kangxi Emperor in China.

  • The emperor's court was a dangerous place.

  • When Verbiest arrived, he was held prisoner, almost chopped to bits.

  • But instead was forced to compete in a series of math and astronomy contests.

  • You know, like you do.

  • Ultimately, Verbiest's performance so impressed the emperor, he banished the current astronomer and gave Verbiest the job.

  • Over the years they became friends.

  • Verbiest tutored the emperor in geometry, philosophy and music.

  • Around 1672, Verbiest designed, as a toy for his friend the emperor, a steam propelled trolley.

  • It was an automobile in the truest sense.

  • No one really knows if it got built.

  • The drawings that Verbiest did are all that remains.

  • Nonetheless, those designs are most likely the earliest self-moving machine ever conceived.

  • Many automobiles would follow over the years, but few were but few were conceived as a gift to a merciful emperor slash BFF.

There are many surprising stories on the stage of world history.

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