While the majority of people know what a diesel engine is, most don’t know the man behind it and the mystery of his disappearance. Rudolf Diesel was born in 1858 and by his early 20s, he became an engineer. During his career, he patented many different ideas and inventions, from refrigerators to steam engines and more. His most famous, however, is the diesel engine.
In the late 1880s, Diesel became interested in developing a new type of engine that was more powerful and more efficient than the popular petroleum-powered engine. His efforts led him to the invention of an internal combustion engine that works by igniting fuel through a compression heating process. The diesel engine was designed to run on nearly any type of fuel and proved to be more efficient than any of the engines available at the time.
In 1892, Diesel filed for a patent for his engine and in the years that followed, he developed a series of engines that could run on various fuels like peanut oil or vegetable oil. His design became a favorite among many industries and by the turn of the century, it was powering vehicles and machines of all sorts.
Shortly after the diesel engine’s popularity boom, Rudolf Diesel mysteriously vanished. In late September of 1913, the inventor boarded a steamship traveling from Belgium across the English Channel. However, when the ship arrived, Diesel wasn’t on it. After several days passed and he wasn’t found, he was ruled dead.
For years, historians have tried to figure out what happened; while it seemed Diesel was doing well after the invention of his engine, details revealed that he was actually in a lot of debt and was in poor health at the time he boarded the ship. His death was ruled a suicide, but there are several conspiracy theories that say otherwise: Some believe he was assassinated by German spies because of the role his engine’s in the U-boat design, while others believe he was killed by his business rivals. There are some that even believe they found him alive and hiding in Canada.
While we may never know what happened to Rudolf Diesel, he’ll forever be remembered among the many that utilize his valued invention.
*Photo courtesy of newhistorian.com