Starting from nothing more than a simple seed of thought, the automotive industry has come on leaps and bounds since the days of steam-powered vehicles with three wheels. One of the most notable inventions to grace the industry was that of the diesel engine, aptly named after the inventor who patented the first ever design in 1892. This engine went on to revolutionise the way we drive and create a much more efficient and environmentally sustainable freight and delivery industry, but just who was Rudolf Diesel and how did he disappear? We’re exploring, below.
Who Was Rudolf Diesel?
Rudolf Diesel was a French-German engineer born in 1858 in Paris, famed mainly due to his creation of the diesel engine, the first internal-combustion engine that would change the way we both fuel and drive the vehicles we have on hand today. Diesel grew up in the city of his birth originally but had moved across to England by 1870 due to the Franco-German war and it was here that his interest and career in engineering truly began.
After building up an incredible school record while in England and then later in the Technische Hochschule in Munich, he became a protégé for Carl von Linde, the refrigeration engineer who would later provide Diesel with a job at a firm in Paris. His attention turned to crafting an engine that would work through internal combustion, but it wasn’t until 1890 that he started to pen the first designs for the diesel engine as we know it today. 1892 saw him submit a successful patent and by 1897, he had a series of models under his belt that grew more and more successful with every new design.
His invention was adopted with great success and he quickly became a very wealthy man, but this was short lived as in 1913, he disappeared.
Diesel had been on his way to England on a trip to visit a brand new diesel engine plant at the time of his disappearance. He was also scheduled to meet with the British Navy at the time, with the intention of discussing the adoption of diesel engines within British submarines to improve their efficiency. However, Diesel never set foot on English soil – instead, he disappeared completely.
While there is plenty of speculation as to just what happened to the inventor, the general belief is that Diesel drowned while at sea on the English Channel. The reason for this is another mystery yet unsolved, but the conspiracy was rife at the time, with rumours of foul play at hand and even common belief that it was suicide.
How Did His Invention Change The Freight World?
Despite his death, the diesel engine went on to revolutionise the delivery industry. Diesel engines provided a new way for large vehicles to power themselves from A to B and carry heavier loads with improved efficiency the whole way. First, the railroad industry benefited from this new fuel form, creating a much more energy-efficient way of transporting goods and people from one place to another. After World War II trucks and buses began to adopt diesel engines too, ultimately improving the world of road freight for the better.
Nowadays we see boats, submarines, trucks, trains and more, all with diesel engines fitted as standard. How, or rather why Rudolf Diesel disappeared will always remain a mystery, but he certainly left behind a legacy that has improved life as we know it today.