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PBS to feature series episode of the history of the automobile May 8th

The amazing story of how humans changed the world, told through six revolutionary inventions.


Premiere Date: Wednesday, May 8, 10-11 p.m. ET

PBS brings viewers a mind-blowing, science-led journey through human history with its new weekly series, BREAKTHROUGH: THE IDEAS THAT CHANGED THE WORLDTold through six iconic objects that modern people take for granted, the six-part series shows how science invention and technology built on one another to change everything.

On Wednesday, May 8 at 10-11 p.m. ET, tune into the premiere of the series’ fourth episode, “The Car,” to go for a ride through the 9,000-year history of humankind’s ultimate freedom machine. The car has transformed the world and revolutionized how humans live, and its development is an incredible story full of astonishing twists and unlikely turns. From its roots in dogsleds to Henry Ford’s affordable and assembly line-built Model T, viewers will also meet the scientists working on the next generation of self-driving automobiles.

Featured Visionaries:

Thomas Newcomen, British Engineer & Inventor
A Baptist preacher and blacksmith who invented the atmospheric steam engine - the first practical fuel-burning engine – in 1712. His invention led to the development of James Watt’s engine.

John “Iron-Mad” Wilkinson, English Industrialist
Pioneered the use of cast iron during the Industrial Revolution. His invention, the precision boring machine, created cast iron cylinders which were eventually used in James Watt’s steam engines.

James Watt, Scottish Inventor, Mechanical Engineer & Chemist
An instrument maker who invented the steam engine, which played an integral role in the Industrial Revolution. He improved Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1776.

Karl Friedrich Benz, German Engine Designer and Automobile Engineer
He invented the world’s first practical automobile powered by an internal-combustion engine – known as the Motorwagen or Motorcar – in 1885 and secured the patent - Benz Patent-Motorwagen Nummer 1 - in January 1886.

Bertha Benz, German Automotive Pioneer
She was the driver of the world’s first long distance test drive, the inventor of the world’s first brake pads and staged the world’s first automobile publicity stunt.

Henry Ford, American Industrialist & Founder of Ford Motor Company
Creator of one of the earliest prototypes of a gas-fueled vehicle called the Quadricycle, which helped solve New York City’s horse manure problem. He heavily promoted and sponsored factory production of automobiles resulting in his company producing a Model T an average of 24-seconds.

William “Pa” Klann, Ford Motor Company Production Engineer
A visit to Chicago’s Swift & Company’s slaughter house assembly line inspired the mass production of Henry Ford Motor Company’s auto parts.

On-Camera Experts:

  • Alice Roberts, Osteoarcheologist, Anatomist, Author & Broadcaster
  • Danny Forster, Architect
  • Robert Hurford, Wheelwright/Chariot Maker
  • Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Theoretical Physics University of Surrey
  • Jutta Kleinschmidt, German Race Car Driver
  • Chris Geddes, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
  • Jay Leno, Car Enthusiast/Collector and TV Personality\
  • Richard Kaner, Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry, UCLA

A new episode of BREAKTHROUGH: THE IDEAS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD debuts every Wednesday at 10-11 p.m. ET on PBS, and the PBS Video App (check local listings). The series is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. PBS station members will be available to view all episodes via Passport (contact your local PBS station for details). Beginning July 9, 2019, the series will be available on DVD and via digital download from PBS Distribution at

BREAKTHROUGH: THE IDEAS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD is a production of BIGGER BANG COMMUNICATIONS, LTD. The executive producers are Ben Bowie and Iain Riddick, and the series producer is Tim Green. The series is narrated by Patrick Stewart.


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PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 90 million people through television and 30 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on TwitterFacebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

– PBS –


Brandii M. Toby-Leon, Bullseye Communications, 865-963-2418;

Atiya N. Frederick, PBS, 703-739-5147;

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