Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel was a German inventor and a mechanical engineer. He is famous for inventing the internal combustion engine which is now named after him as the 'Diesel Engine'. He was also a linguist, a theorist and a connoisseur of arts.

Early Life


Rudolf Diesel was born on March 18,1858 in Paris, France. His parents Theodor and Elise Diesel were Bavarian immigrants who lived in Paris. He was the second of the three children of his parents. Diesel spent his early childhood in France. However, when the Franco-German War broke out in 1870, the Diesels went to London, England. After a brief stay in London, Rudolf Diesel was sent to Augsberg, his father's native town in Germany to stay with his aunt and uncle and to complete his schooling. After completing his schooling in 1873, Diesel went to the Munich Polytechnic in 1975. Here, he had an excellent record as an engineer.

Work After Graduation

When he had completed his graduation in 1880, a year later than he should have as he fell grievously ill, he returned to Paris. Here, Diesel was employed as a refrigerator engineer at Linde Refrigeration Enterprises. It was a company owned by his former Munich professor, Carl von Linde. Due to his hard work and intelligence, Diesel became the director of the company a year later. While working at the Enterprises, Diesel gained several patents both in France and Germany. 
In 1890, Diesel moved to Berlin with his wife and three children and took over the management of the Linde corporate and research department. Now, he was not allowed to use the patents he had acquired as an employee of the Linde enterprises, to use for his own purposes. Due to this, he began thinking beyond refrigeration.

So, he began working on designing his own distinctive engine. But before he designed his internal combustion engine, he first began by building the steam engine. Besides the steam engine, he also built a solar-powered air engine. His early research into fuel efficiency led him to build a "steam engine" using ammonia vapour. While he was conducting his tests, the engine exploded with fatal consequences. Diesel was hospitalized for many months. Due to this accident, he suffered from a great deal of ill health and had eyesight problems in later life.

Marriage and Family


in 1883. Rudolf Diesel returned to Paris and here in 1885 established his own shop-laboratory in Paris. In Paris, he also became a connoisseur of the fine arts and an internationalist. During this time, he also married Martha Flasche. They had three children together-Eugen, Hedi and Rudolf Jr. In 1885, Rudolf began to pursue his life long dream and began working an designing his engine full time. Even when he moved to Berlin and began working again for Linde Enterprises, he pursued to make his engine design.

Pursuing his Dream

After he had recovered, Diesel began designing an engine which was based on the Carnot Cycle. Then, in 1983, he came to know about Karl Benz's engine for the motor car had received a patent. Soon after,
Diesel published a book in German titled, "Theory and design of a rational thermal engine to replace the steam engine and the combustion engines known today". This treatise formed the basis of his work. Further, he began developing an engine based on his own design. In time, he had designed his own engine and also obtained a patent for his design.
He had based his engine on maximum fuel efficiency for he knew that the steam engine wasted about 90% of the energy available in the fuel. In the engine that he had designed, fuel was injected at the end of compression. Also, the high temperature caused by compression ignited the fuel inside the engine. Diesel also managed to build a working model of the engine based on his theory and design. The engine that he designed is now known after his name as the Diesel Engine.
Then from 1893-1897, Diesel worked for Heinrich von Buz at MAN AG, an engine factory in Augsburg, Germany. Here, Heinrich von Buz gave Diesel the opportunity to test and develop his ideas. Soon, he obtained patents for his design in Germany and aliso in USA. He made the first working model of nis engine in 1893 which had 26% efficiency. It was double the efficiency of the steam engine. In 1897, the first diesel engine suitable for practical use worked at a remarkable efficiency of 75%. Interestingly, the diesel engine can also run on cheaper fuel. The greatest achievement for Rudolf Diesel and his engine came in 1900 at the Paris Exposition where the diesel engine took the Grand Prix. The engine was fueled with 100% peanut oil. It must be noted that Diesel saw biomass fuel as the real future of his engine. He wanted to provide farmers and small industries the means to produce their own fuel.
After Diesel's death, the diesel engine underwent several transformations and soon replaced the steam engine in many of its applications.
However, the diesel engine wasn't used in aviation as it required a heavier and strong construction compared to a gasoline engine. However, the diesel engine was widely used in submarines, ships and even, though a bit later, in locomotives and automobiles. Recently, diesel engines have been redesigned for usage in aircrafts.

Mystery Surrounding his Death


On the evening of September 29, 1913, Rudolf Diesel took a ship, SS Dresden, to cross the English Channel from Antwerp, Belgium to Harwich, England. He had his dinner on board the ship and then retired to his cabin at about 10PM. Before he returned to his cabin, he left word that he must be called the next morning at 6:15 AM. But next morning, during a roll call he was not found in his room. He had not slept on his bed and all his belongings were in the room. But he himself had disappeared. A thorough search of the ship took place but he remained missing. 10 days later, a corpse was found in the water off the Dutch coast. His son, Eugen Diesel, identified the corpse as that of his father after identifying the contents of the man's pocket. It remained opened to speculation whether it was a suicide or a murder. However, the body wasn't buried and was returned to the sea for it was badly decomposed. 
A year later, World War I broke out. Meanwhile, there was some speculation regarding the cause of his death. As his body was returned to the sea, Rudolf Diesel has no known grave. Only a simple carved piece of rock in the Rudolf Diesel Memorial Grove in Augsburg, Germany and the magnificient musemum in the M.A.N. (MAN AG) factory in Augsburg, exist as a direct memorial to one of the finest engineers the world.

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