Thursday, 13 December 2012

Men of Yore: Rudolph Diesel

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form.  Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards.  We, as men, are the frontiersmen/the vanguard, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

It is also partly intended to show images, be they paintings, statues or photographs of the countenaces of men of yore.  Because, quite frankly, many men wear the countenances of women these days: smiling, smirking, cooing, rolling their eyes, looking smug etc.  It's a sign of the times, and by showing some images of men from the past, I hope to show some modern men why looking surly, frowning and giving hard-ball stares at people is something to do, something to practice.


Rudolph Diesel, 1883 (aged 25)

Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel (German: [ˈʁuːdɔlf ˈkʁɪstjan ˈkaʁl ˈdiːzəl]; March 18, 1858 – September 29, 1913) was a German inventor and mechanical engineer, famous for the invention of the Diesel engine.
Diesel was born in Paris, France in 1858[1] the second of three children of Elise (born Strobel) and Theodor Diesel. His parents were Bavarian immigrants living in Paris.[2][3] Theodor Diesel, a bookbinder by trade, left his home town of Augsburg, Bavaria, in 1848. He met his wife, a daughter of a Nuremberg merchant, in Paris in 1855 and became a leather goods manufacturer there.
At age 14, Rudolf wrote a letter to his parents stating that he wanted to become an engineer. After finishing his basic education at the top of his class in 1873, he enrolled at the newly-founded Industrial School of Augsburg. Two years later, he received a merit scholarship from the Royal Bavarian Polytechnic of Munich, which he accepted against the wishes of his parents, who would rather have seen him start to work.
One of his professors in Munich was Carl von Linde. Diesel was unable to be graduated with his class in July 1879 because he fell ill with typhoid. While waiting for the next examination date, he gained practical engineering experience at the Gebrüder Sulzer Maschinenfabrik (Sulzer Brothers Machine Works) in Winterthur, Switzerland. Diesel was graduated in January 1880 with highest academic honours 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 one year later.
He first worked with steam, his research into thermal efficiency and fuel efficiency leading him to build a steam engine using ammonia vapour
He then began designing an engine based on the Carnot cycle, and in 1893, soon after Karl Benz was granted a patent for his invention of the motor car in 1886
Diesel understood thermodynamics and the theoretical and practical constraints on fuel efficiency. He knew that as much as 90% of the energy available in the fuel is wasted in a steam engine. His work in engine design was driven by the goal of much higher efficiency ratios.
After Diesel's death, the Diesel engine underwent much development and became a very important replacement for the steam piston engine in many applications.
Diesel engines have also become the workhorses of the trucking industry. Recently, diesel engines that have overcome their 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.
Diesel was interested in using coal dust [5] or vegetable oil as fuel, and in fact, his engine 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.

Diesel originally thought that the diesel engine, (readily adaptable in size and utilizing locally available fuels) would enable independent craftsmen and artisans to endure the powered competition of large industries that then virtually monopolized the predominant power source-the oversized, expensive, fuel-wasting steam engine. During 1885 Diesel set up his first shop-laboratory in Paris and began his 13-year ordeal of creating his distinctive engine.. At Augsburg, on August 10, 1893, Diesel's prime model, a single 10-foot iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, ran on its own power for the first time. Diesel spent two more years at improvements and on the last day of 1896 demonstrated another model with the spectacular, if theoretical, mechanical efficiency of 75.6 percent, in contrast to the then-prevailing efficiency of the steam engine of 10 percent or less. Although commercial manufacture was delayed another year and even then begun at a snail's pace, by 1898 Diesel was a millionaire from franchise fees in great part international. His engines were used to power pipelines, electric and water plants, automobiles and trucks, and marine craft, and soon after were used in applications including mines, oil fields, factories, and transoceanic shipping.

A characteristic of a man is his desire to help his fellow men, endow them with increased freedoms, be they in the mental realm (language, maths, scientific theories etc) or the physical (fire, the ability to sow ones own crops, travel the world etc). 

As the modern world is increasingly using fuels made from vegetable oil and sugar syrup, it shows that Rudolph Diesel truely was a hundred years ahead of his time.

Check out some of the other entries from the 'Men of Yore' series:
John Snow
Ludwig van Beethoven
Henry Ford
George Custer


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