Thursday, March 18, 2010


The fellow above is one Rudolf Diesel born this day 1858, Paris, France. The son of German immigrants, his father was a bookbinder, and his mother was the son of a leather goods merchant. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war forced his family to emigrate first to London, then back to the fatherland. After finishing his primary education at the top of his class, he decided he wanted to be a engineer. He eventually wound up graduating at the top of his class from an engineering school, and became the director of an ice plant in France. Of course, his claim to fame is the engine that bears his name. Improving upon the earlier types of engines that were only about 10% effective, he made the right adjustments to improve that, and a hero was born. His death had quite the aura of mystery about it, and is still debated till this day. In the September 1913, Diesel boarded the post office steamer Dresden in Antwerp on his way to a meeting of the Consolidated Diesel Manufacturing company in England. He took dinner on board the ship and then retired to his cabin at about 10 p.m., leaving word for him to be called the next morning at 6:15 a.m. He was never seen alive again. Ten days later, the crew of the Dutch boat "Coertsen" came upon the corpse of a man floating in the sea. The body was in such an advanced state of decomposition that they did not bring it aboard. Instead, the crew retrieved personal items (pill case, wallet, pocket knife, 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 theories that he was "offed" by competitors, but more likely it was suicide. Either way, he had made his contribution to society. I have a relative that has spent a lifetime driving a truck with M. Diesel's engines in them, and I am sure he is grateful for it. So, for designing an engine that has become the backbone of the trucking industry, Rudolf Diesel (March 18th, 1858-September 29th, 1913, at the age of 55) you are my (204th) hero of the day.

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