Nikolaus Otto (1832-1891) was born in Holzhausen, Germany. As a young man he began experimenting with gas engines and in 1864 joined with two friends to form his own company. His first atmospheric engine was completed in 1867. Five years later he was joined by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach and together they produced the idea of the four-stroke cycle or Otto cycle. First described in 1876, the stroke is an upward or downward movement of a piston in a cylinder. Otto's patent was invalidated in 1886 when it was discovered that another inventor, Alphonse Beau de Rochas, had already described the four-stroke cycle principle in a privately published pamphlet.