On this Day:
On March 18, 1858, Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel, a German inventor and mechanical engineer who is famous for having invented the Diesel engine, was born in Paris, France. Interestingly, he disappeared in 1913.
At the age of 14, Diesel wrote a letter to his parents saying that he wanted to become an engineer. After finishing his basic education at the top of his class in 1873, he enrolled at the newly founded Industrial School of Augsburg. Two years later, he received a merit scholarship from the Royal Bavarian Polytechnic of Munich, which he accepted against the wishes of his parents, who would rather have seen him start to work.
One of Diesel’s professors in Munich was Carl von Linde. Diesel was unable to graduate with his class in July 1879 because he fell ill with typhoid fever. While waiting for the next examination date, he gained practical engineering experience at the Sulzer Brothers Machine Works in Winterthur, Switzerland. Diesel graduated in January 1880 with highest academic honours and returned to Paris, where he assisted his former Munich professor, Carl von Linde, with the design and construction of a modern refrigeration and ice plant. Diesel became the director of the plant one year later.
In 1883, Diesel married Martha Flasche, and continued to work for Linde, gaining numerous patents in both Germany and France.
In early 1890, Diesel moved to Berlin with his wife and children, Rudolf Jr, Heddy, and Eugen, to assume management of Linde’s corporate research and development department and to join several other corporate boards there. As he was not allowed to use the patents he developed while an employee of Linde’s for his own purposes, he expanded beyond the field of refrigeration. He first worked with steam, his research into thermal efficiency and fuel efficiency leading him to build a steam engine using ammonia vapor. During tests, however, the engine exploded and almost killed him. His research into high compression cylinder pressures tested the strength of iron and steel cylinder heads. One exploded during a run in. He spent many months in a hospital, followed by health and eyesight problems.
Ever since attending lectures of Carl von Linde, Diesel intended designing an internal combustion engine that could approach the maximum theoretical thermal efficiency of the Carnot cycle. He worked on this idea for several years, and in 1892, he considered his theory to be completed. The same year, Diesel was given the German patent DRP 67207. In 1893, he published a treatise entitled Theory and Construction of a Rational Heat-engine to Replace the Steam Engine and The Combustion Engines Known Today, that he had been working on since early 1892. This treatise formed the basis for his work on and development of the Diesel engine. By summer 1893, Diesel had realized that his initial theory was erroneous, which led him to file another patent application for the corrected theory in 1893.
Diesel understood thermodynamics and the theoretical and practical constraints on fuel efficiency. He knew that as much as 90% of the energy available in the fuel is wasted in a steam engine. His work in engine design was driven by the goal of much higher efficiency ratios. In his engine, fuel was injected at the end of the compression stroke and was ignited by the high temperature resulting from the compression. From 1893 to 1897, Heinrich von Buz, director of Maschinenfabrik Augsburg in Augsburg, gave Rudolf Diesel the opportunity to test and develop his ideas.
The first successful Diesel engine Motor 250/400 was officially tested in 1897 and is now on display at the German Technical Museum in Munich.
Rudolf Diesel obtained patents for his design in Germany and other countries, including the United States.
He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1978.
On the evening of 29 September 1913, Diesel boarded the GER steamer SS Dresden in Antwerp on his way to a meeting of the Consolidated Diesel Manufacturing company in London. He took dinner on board the ship and then retired to his cabin at about 10 p.m., leaving word to be called the next morning at 6:15 a.m.; but he was never seen alive again. In the morning his cabin was empty and his bed had not been slept in, although his nightshirt was neatly laid out and his watch had been left where it could be seen from the bed. His hat and neatly folded overcoat were discovered beneath the afterdeck railing.
Ten days later, the crew of the Dutch pilot boat Coertsen came upon the corpse of a man floating in the Eastern Scheldt. The body was in such an advanced state of decomposition that it was unrecognizable, and they did not bring it aboard because of heavy weather. Instead, the crew retrieved personal items (pill case, wallet, I.D. card, pocketknife, eyeglass case) from the clothing of the dead man, and returned the body to the sea. On 13 October, these items were identified by Rudolf’s son, Eugen Diesel, as belonging to his father.
There are various theories to explain Diesel’s death. Certain people, such as his biographer Grosser, and Hans L. Sittauer (both in 1978) argue that Rudolf Diesel committed suicide. Another line of thought suggests that he was murdered, given his refusal to grant the German forces the exclusive rights to using his invention; indeed, Diesel boarded the SS Dresden with the intent of meeting with representatives of the British Royal Navy to discuss the possibility of powering British submarines by Diesel engine – he never made it ashore. Yet, evidence is limited for all explanations, and his disappearance and death remain unsolved.
Shortly after Diesel’s disappearance, his wife Martha opened a bag that her husband had given to her just before his ill-fated voyage, with directions that it should not be opened until the following week. She discovered 20,000 German marks in cash (US$120,000 today) and a number of financial statements indicating that their bank accounts were virtually empty. In a diary Diesel brought with him on the ship, for the date 29 September 1913, a cross was drawn, possibly indicating death.
Afterwards, in the middle of 1950, Magokichi Yamaoka, the founder of Yanmar, the diesel engine manufacturer in Japan, visited West Germany, and learned that there was no tomb or monument for Diesel. Yamaoka and the people associated with Diesel began to make preparations to honour him. In 1957, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Diesel’s birth and the 60th anniversary of the diesel engine development, Yamaoka donated the Rudolf Diesel Memorial Garden (Rudolf-Diesel-Gedächtnishain) in Wittelsbacher Park in Augsburg, Bavaria, where Diesel spent his childhood (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
A group of farming mathematicians in the Midwest are doing well for themselves.
These farmers use their mathematical expertise to best know how to plot their crops, when to start planting or harvesting, and overall how to have a good yield.
Recently, the state has been pushing for a ban on diesel-engine tractors due to their heavy usage on non-renewable resources and how much greenhouse gases they emit.
The mathematician farmers were totally against this, so they organized to start the Pro-Tractor movement.
Second, a Song:
Car Throttle has produced a video “The Differences Between Petrol and Diesel Engines” on YouTube.com. They state: “Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between petrol and diesel engines.”
I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“The use of plant oil as fuel may seem insignificant today. But such products can in time become just as important as kerosene and these coal-tar-products of today.” – Rudolf Diesel
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky