A Unique Vision That Changed The World-WackyWhatever?

The steam trolley. 1672

A Concept of Vision

Ferdinand Verbeist (1623-1688) was a Flemish Jesuit priest. He became a missionary to China in 1658. Educated in the humanities, astronomy, mathematics and theology, he was also fluent in no less than five European languages. He soon made himself popular with the Chinese Emperor, and earned himself the Chinese name Nan Huairen. He wrote over thirty books in his life-time, one of which, the Astronomia Europea, revealed a design he created as a toy for the Chienese Emperor’s amusement. It was a 65 cm steam propelled ‘auto-mobile’. The ‘trolley’ was driven by a steam turbine which powered the wheels to movement. Historically this drawing is the first conceptualization of the highway cruisers we call cars. An exceptional vision for a man living in 1672.

Ferdinand Verbiest.

Ferdinand’s design went on to inspire many a ‘steam engine’ and was part of the blue-print for Karl Benz’s invention of the four stroke combustion engine than lead to the mass production of vehicles.



I wonder what Karl and Ferdinand would think of the results of their brilliance. According to the Canadian website Huffingtonpost there are more than a billion cars in the world. In the USA there is a car for every 1.3 persons, while in China there is a car for every 6.7 citizens.


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