Childhood & Early Life
Rudolf Diesel was born as Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel on 18 March 1858, in Paris, Second French Empire, to Theodor, a bookbinder, and his wife, Elise.
Following his birth, he was given to a Vincennes farmer’s family with who he spent his first nine months. As a young child, he worked in his father's workshop and helped him deliver leather goods to customers.
Diesel studied at a Protestant-French school and earned the Société pour l'Instruction Elémentaire bronze medal for his capabilities.
During the Franco-Prussian War, he and his family moved to England where he attended an English school. However, he was later sent back to Germany to live with his aunt and uncle.
After finishing his basic education in 1873, Rudolf Diesel enrolled at the Industrial School of Augsburg. At about 16 years old, he earned a merit scholarship to study at the Royal Bavarian Polytechnic of Munich.
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Following his graduation with the highest academic honors in 1880, Rudolf Diesel returned to Paris where he collaborated with his former professor Carl von Linde and assisted him with the construction of a modern refrigeration plant.
He later became the director of the plant and continued to work there, gaining various patents in France and Germany.
In 1890, Diesel moved to Berlin to undertake the management of Linde's firm. He soon expanded his experiments beyond refrigeration and began to work in the field of steam.
His research on fuel and thermal efficiency led him to construct a steam engine with ammonia vapor. However, the engine exploded during tests.
Rudolf Diesel, who always dreamt of designing an internal combustion engine, finalized his theory on the same in 1892. That year, he managed to earn a German patent for his theory.
In 1893, he published a treatise that helped him construct his first Diesel engine. Later that year, he was hired by Heinrich von Buz, director of the German mechanical engineering agency MAN AG.
In 1897, his first Diesel engine successfully ran for the first time. It is currently displayed at Munich’s Deutsches Technikmuseum.
The legendary inventor soon managed to obtain patents for his new invention in several countries, including USA.
In 1978, Rudolf Diesel was posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.
Disappearance & Recovery of Body
In late September 1913, Rudolf Diesel boarded a steamer in Belgium on his way to a meeting in London. On the night of 29 September, he had dinner and went to his cabin to sleep. His cabin was empty the next morning.
A few days later, a Dutch boat came across a highly decomposed dead body in the North Sea near Norway. Several personal items were retrieved from the body that were later identified by Rudolf's son as his father’s belongings.
On 14 October 1913, Diesel's body was reportedly found in the French river Scheldt. After that, several stories regarding the inventor’s death cropped up. While many people argued that he committed suicide, some said he was murdered.
Shortly after his disappearance, Diesel's wife opened the bag her husband had given her just before his departure. She discovered a number of financial statements along with 200,000 German marks in cash.
Later, Diesel’s diary, where a cross was drawn for the date 29 September, the same day he went missing, was also discovered from the ship. This indicated he might have committed suicide.
Family & Personal Life
In 1883, Rudolf Diesel married Martha Flasche. The couple had three children, Eugen, Heddy, and Rudolf Jr.
After Diesel's death, his engine became a replacement for the steam piston engine in several applications, including agricultural machines, stationary engines, and modern automobiles.
His engine initially ran on peanut oil. Later on, the primary source of fuel used in his engines became popular as “Diesel fuel,” a type of oil derived as a by-product during the refinement of petroleum.