When the inventor of the diesel engine passed away | Smart News

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For more than a century, the diesel engine has been the backbone of heavy industry. The internal combustion engine that ignites fuel by heating it by compression powers everything from tractors to trucks. But for decades historians have been puzzled by the mysterious disappearance of its inventor, who disappeared 103 years ago today as he crossed the English Channel on a steamboat.

Rudolf Diesel was a talented inventor who designed devices ranging from refrigerators to steam engines, but his eponymous engine is what he is best known for. An engineer by training, Diesel became interested in developing a new type of internal combustion engine in the late 1880s because he believed he could design one that was more powerful and efficient than the gasoline engines that were increasingly popular. no longer used at the time, as the Encyclopedia Britannica Remarks.

Unlike gasoline engines, Diesel designed their device to run on almost any type of fuel. Back then, standard petroleum internal combustion engines were large, expensive, and inefficient. The alternatives weren’t much better either: if a factory workshop didn’t use a gas engine, it was probably powered by a steam engine, which was even more wasteful and expensive, Jason Stein wrote for Press day.

“Diesel viewed its engine as a tool that was adaptable in size and cost, but also capable of using available fuels,” Stein wrote. “This would allow independent artisans to avoid having to use expensive and energy-intensive steam engines. It would help the little businessman try to beat the big business. “

Diesel filed a patent for its engine in 1892 and in just a few short years it developed a series of efficient small engines that could run on anything from vegetable oil to peanut oil. By the end of the 19th century, everything from power plants to cars ran on diesel engines. So it came as a shock to many when Diesel mysteriously disappeared on September 30, 1913, while crossing the Channel from Belgium on his way to a business meeting, Jennifer Latson wrote for TIME magazine.

“When the ship arrived in Harwich at 6 am this morning, it was missing. ” the New York Times reported at the time. “Her bed had not been made, although her nightgown was arranged for it.”

Diesel’s disappearance has turned the world upside down. He appeared extremely well off thanks to his numerous patents and was a titan of invention. However, after his disappearance and the decision to die, new details revealed that he was actually in serious debt due to bad investments and was in poor health, Latson writes.

While his death was officially deemed a suicide, the mysterious circumstances surrounding him kept Diesel in the news for years. Some conspiracy theorists were convinced that he had been murdered by German spies because of the diesel engine’s importance in early submarine designs, or that his business rivals wanted him out of the way. Other stories have surfaced over the years, with some accounts claiming he left his wife with a bag full of money and documents detailing his debt as well as instructions not to open it until the week after his disappearance, and that he had drawn a small cross afterwards. to the date of his diary. Some people have even claimed to have found it alive and healthy hidden in Canada.

Diesel’s demise may never be fully explained, but the imprint he left on the industrial world remains undeniable.

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