Rudolf Diesel: Wikis


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Rudolf Diesel
Born March 18, 1858
Paris, France
Died September 29, 1913 (aged 55)
English Channel
Nationality German
Occupation Engineer, inventor, entrepreneur
Employer Sulzer, Linde, MAN AG
Known for Inventing the diesel engine
Children Rudolf Jr, Heddy, and Eugen
Parents Theodor Diesel, Elise Diesel

Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel (German pronunciation: [ˈʁuːdɔlf ˈkʁɪstjan ˈkaʁl ˈdiːzəl]; March 18, 1858 – last seen alive September 29, 1913) was a German inventor and mechanical engineer, famous for the invention of the diesel engine.


Early life

Diesel was born in Paris, France in 1858[1] as the second of three children to Theodor and Elise Diesel. Diesel's parents were German-born immigrants living in France.[2][3] Theodor Diesel, a bookbinder by trade, had left his home town of Augsburg, Kingdom of Bavaria, in 1848. Theodor met his wife, Elise Strobel, daughter of a Nuremberg merchant, in Paris in 1855 and himself became a leather goods manufacturer there.

Diesel spent his early childhood in France, but as a result of the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the family (like many foreigners) was forced to leave and emigrated to London. Before the end of the war, however, Diesel's mother sent 12-year-old Rudolf to Augsburg to live with his aunt and uncle, Barbara and Christoph Barnickel, so that he might learn to speak German and visit the Königliche Kreis-Gewerbsschule [Royal County Trade School], where his uncle taught mathematics.

At age 14, Rudolf wrote to his parents that he wanted to become an engineer, and after finishing his basic education at the top of his class in 1873, he enrolled at the newly-founded Industrial School of Augsburg. Later, in 1875, he received a merit scholarship from the Royal Bavarian Polytechnic of Munich which he accepted against the will of his parents who would rather have seen him begin earning money.

In Munich, one of his professors was Carl von Linde. Diesel was unable to graduate with his class in July 1879 because of a bout of typhoid. While he waited for the next exam date, he gathered practical engineering experience at the Gebrüder Sulzer Maschinenfabrik [Sulzer Brothers Machine Works] in Winterthur, Switzerland. Diesel graduated with highest academic honors from his Munich alma mater in January 1880 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 a year later.

In 1883, Diesel married Martha Flasche, and continued to work for Linde, garnering numerous patents in both Germany and France.

In early 1890, Diesel moved his wife and their three children (Rudolf Jr, Heddy, and Eugen) to Berlin to assume management of Linde's corporate research and development department and to join several other corporate boards there. Because he was not allowed to use the patents he developed while an employee of Linde's for his own purposes, Diesel sought to expand into an area outside refrigeration. He first toyed with steam, his research into fuel efficiency leading him to build a steam engine using ammonia vapor. During tests, this machine exploded with almost fatal consequences and resulted in many months in the hospital and a great deal of ill health and eyesight problems. He also began designing an engine based on the Carnot cycle, and in 1893, soon after Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz had invented the automobile in 1887, Diesel published a treatise entitled Theorie und Construktion eines rationellen Wärmemotors zum Ersatz der Dampfmaschine und der heute bekannten Verbrennungsmotoren [Theory and Construction of a Rational Heat-engine to Replace the Steam Engine and Combustion Engines Known Today] and formed the basis for his work on and invention of the diesel engine.

Later life

Diesel understood thermodynamics and the theoretical and practical constraints on fuel efficiency. He knew that even very good steam engines are only 10-15% thermodynamically efficient, which means that up to 90% of the energy available in the fuel is wasted. His work in engine design was driven by the goal of much higher efficiency ratios. He tried to design an engine based on the Carnot Cycle. However, he gave up on this and tried to develop his own approach. Eventually he designed his own engine and obtained a patent for his design. In his engine, fuel was injected at the end of compression and the fuel was ignited by the high temperature resulting from compression. In 1893, he published a book in German with the title "Theory and design of a rational thermal engine to replace the steam engine and the combustion engines known today" (English translation of the original title in German) with the help of Springer Verlag, Berlin. He managed to build a working engine according to his theory and design. His engine and its successors are now known as diesel engines. From 1893 to 1897, Heinrich von Buz, director of MAN AG in Augsburg, gave Rudolf Diesel the opportunity to test and develop his ideas.[2] Rudolf Diesel obtained patents for his design in Germany and other countries, including the USA (U.S. Patent 542,846 and U.S. Patent 608,845).


In the evening of 29 September 1913, Diesel boarded the post office steamer 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 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 various theories to explain Diesel's death. Grosser (1978)[3] presents a credible case for suicide. There are conspiracy theories that suggest that various people's business interests may have provided motives for homicide. Evidence is limited for all explanations.[4]


Rudolf Diesel

After Diesel's death, the diesel engine underwent much development, and became a very important replacement for the steam piston engine in many applications. Because the diesel engine required a heavier, more robust construction than a gasoline engine, it was not widely used in aviation (but see aircraft diesel engine). However, the diesel engine became widespread in many other applications, such as stationary engines, submarines, ships, and much later, locomotives, trucks, and in modern automobiles. Diesel engines are most often found in applications where a high torque requirement and low RPM requirement exist. Because of their generally more robust construction and high torque, diesel engines have also become the workhorses of the trucking industry. Recently, diesel engines that have overcome this weight penalty have been designed, certified, and flown in light aircraft. These engines are designed to run on either diesel fuel or more commonly jet fuel.

The diesel engine has the benefit of running more fuel-efficiently than gasoline engines. Diesel was interested in using coal dust [5] or vegetable oil as fuel, and his engine, in fact, was run on peanut oil.[6] Although these fuels were not immediately popular, during 2008 rises in fuel prices coupled with concerns about oil reserves have led to more widespread use of vegetable oil and biodiesel. The primary source of fuel remains what became known as diesel fuel, an oil byproduct derived from refinement of petroleum.

Patent dispute with Herbert Akroyd Stuart

Akroyd-Stuart's compression ignition[citation needed] engine (as opposed to spark-ignition) was patented two years earlier than Diesel's similar engine; Diesel's patentable idea was to increase the pressure. The hot bulb engine, due to the lower pressures used (around 90 PSI).[7] as opposed to the Diesel engine's c. 500 PSI, had only about a 12% thermal efficiency versus more than 50% for some large Diesels. Details of the claim that a patent submitted by Herbert Akroyd Stuart has pre-dated that of Rudolf Diesel can be found under the name of that inventor.[citation needed]

The high compression and thermal efficiency is what distinguishes the patent of Diesel from a hot bulb engine patent.

See also

Search Wikimedia Commons Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Rudolf Diesel


  1. ^ Herring, Peter (2000). Ultimate Train (2000 ed.). London: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7513-0698-3. , p 148.
  2. ^ a b Moon 1974.
  3. ^ a b Grosser 1978.
  4. ^
  5. ^ DE patent 67207 Rudolf Diesel: „Arbeitsverfahren und Ausführungsart für Verbrennungskraftmaschinen“ pg 4.
  6. ^ "20011101_gen-346.pdf (application/pdf Object)". Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  7. ^ Wrangham, D.A. (1956). The Theory & Practice of Heat Engines. Cambridge University Press. p. 664. 


  • Cummins, C. Lyle, Jr. (1993), Diesel's Engine: Volume 1: From Conception To 1918, Wilsonville, OR, USA: Carnot Press, ISBN 978-0-917308-03-1 . (C. Lyle Cummins, Jr. was the son of Clessie Cummins, founder of the Cummins Company).
  • Grosser, Morton (1978), Diesel: The Man and the Engine, New York: Atheneum, ISBN 978-0-689-30652-5; LCCN 78-006196 .
  • Moon, John F. (1974), Rudolf Diesel and the Diesel Engine, London: Priory Press, ISBN 978-0-85078-130-4; LCCN 74-182524 .

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel (18 March 1858 – 30 September 1913) was a German inventor, famous for the invention of the Diesel engine.


  • The diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils and would help considerably in the development of agriculture of the countries which use it.
    • 1911
  • The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time.
    • 1912

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Simple English

File:DBP 1958 284 Rudolf
1958 German postage

Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel' (March 18, 1858September 30, 1913) was a German engineer and inventor. His best known invention is Diesel engine. He was born in Paris and died on the English Channel.

He had the idea to develop an engine which relied on a high compression of the fuel to ignite it. With this he could do without a spark. The technique with a spark was developed by Niklaus Otto. The engine based on this is called internal combustion engine.

In 1892 he got a patent for the engine.

He got a lot of money from licensing his invention.


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