Talk:Rudolf Diesel

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On Diesel's death[edit]

We look at him like a realey bad figure, but just like all of us he had some problems. With all his breakdowns in the past, it is lead to believe he killed himself by jumping off the ship. Have a nice swim Rudolf! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 2006-03-17T14:02:06

While this is possible it is more likely that he was killed by the German Military, as he was on his way to a conference in the U.K with more advanced designs that especially the German Navy was not eager to see him present. The most advanced diesel engine to come out of WWI was the M.A.N. 10 Cylinder 3000 HP Diesel engine used on some later German U-boats built at Augsburg plant piston speed 1320 cycles per minute. (Dristen) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Dristen (talkcontribs) 05:39, 27 January 2011 (UTC)

I read he was probably killed by coal magnates, his business rivals. Brand 18:41, 30 April 2006 (UTC)

Update, 2010[edit]

The coverage in the article has matured since 2006 (when the above comments were added). The fundamental question (which the above comments validly come near to discussing) is presenting the right balance between theories based on their likeliness, soundness in reality versus fringe/conspiracy/paranoia, etc. It currently says (as of this writing):

"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]"

I just undid a good-faith edit that wanted to remove the words "credible" and "conspiracy". This was a good-faith but slightly misguided effort to reduce "bias", i.e., to increase the NPOV factor. However, the existing wording is nevertheless better, for reasons that I will explain. There is a dynamic tension in life between "being unbiased / neutral / even-handed" and giving undue weight to ideas that are fringe / extremist / conspiracy-laden, compared to ideas that reliable sources would present as the most likely to be true. This spectrum is encountered both at Wikipedia (where it is covered by the WP:UNDUE guidelines) and in the profession of journalism, where journalists are rightfully derided if they let the valid seeking of balance degrade into mere "on the one hand, on the other hand" presentation—which is rightfully recognized as lazy journalism (the easy way out of the harder responsibility to seek the truth amid uncertainty). Cheers and happy editing, — ¾-10 16:01, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

I have to disagree with your edit for the following reasons:
  1. The only reference provided to support the assertion that suicide theory is credible -- "Grosser 1978" -- is unspecific and thus unverifiable. What pages in the book, if any, support the claim? Should one read the whole book just to discover it doesn't support the theory? That would place an undue burden on someone who would want to verify the reference. An unverifiable reference cannot be considered as a reliable source, see WP:VERIFY.
  2. Who decides that the theory presented in the Grosser's book is credible? Grosser himself? Wouldn't that be a biased conclusion? Currently, the article doesn't present any independent and reliable sources at all confirming that Grosser's theory is credible.
  3. There are other sources that suggest a murder theory may be credible as well: "The German [murder] theory has some traction because they [the Germans] had the motivation, the means and the wherewithal to execute a professional assassination quickly and quietly."
Unless you can address the above points, I'll revert your edit, as my version is less biased and thus more appropriate. C1010 (talk) 04:56, 25 October 2010 (UTC)
Meh. I take your points. I still feel that the murder theories do not deserve undue weight, but there's no way to objectively pry the consensus toward my view. Your version is certainly very even-handed, and any reader willing to use his/her brain can decide for him/herself. I suppose I can't ask for anything more than that. I have read Grosser 1978—good book—but I don't own a copy, I read a library copy, so I don't have it on hand to narrow down a page range for the citation. Will see about chasing that down sometime; it'd be well worth adding here, as it might prompt a few readers to actually seek out the book and read (parts of) it. By the way, on this topic (reason why lost overboard), see also my earlier talk page comments. — ¾-10 21:43, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

Patent dates[edit]

I've added a link to the US patent office web page, which includes images of his original patents submitted to the office in 1895. In t,ki9,n8u9lnby7, Rudolf reviews all former patent applications and specifies the dates. This contradicts what is currently specified in this article.

jag är gangster

Diesel cheaper than gas?[edit]

"The diesel engine has the benefit of running on fuel which is less expensive then gasoline" It hasn't been in the US for a few years now, what shall we do about this part of the article? M855GT (talk) 08:00, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

My bad, I overwrote an edit that was accurate (Diesel is more fuel efficient)--Work permit (talk) 00:22, 13 May 2008 (UTC)
):):):):):) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:27, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

Just a moment...[edit]

Peanut oil, according to at least one reference cited in this very article (the one), was the fuel for the first working Diesel engine. I don't think that the article reflects this, as it goes so far as to say that the primary fuel for the Diesel engine is Petrodiesel, not mentioning that it was not so for about twenty years after the invention was first demonstrated successfully. [unsigned]

Actually, Rudolf Diesel invented his engine to run on vegetable oil, not peanut oil.

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── [In regard to first paragraph above] You might want to look at Diesels Patent applications. While there is a version that ran on coal dust there is Nothing about vegetable oil. The diesel cycle engine that ran on peanut oil at the 1900 Paris Exhibition was in the Otto Companies exhibit. (Dristen)

[In regard to second paragraph above, veg oil vs peanut oil] This is not true!(Dristen)

I would think Dristen is correct here, not only because of the points about coal dust, but also because I very much doubt that there is any differentiation chemically that matters between "vegetable oil" and "peanut oil" as regards using it as a fuel for combustion. Any engine that runs on corn oil or canola oil is going to run on peanut oil with little to no modification. They are all vegetable oils, peanut included. — ¾-10 17:44, 27 January 2011 (UTC)

Death ideas from great niece[edit]

Can someone help me? I personally spoke with Christiana, Rudolf Diesel's great niece. She said he died in bed, that he protested diesel engines being used in war machines. Is there an expert out there whom I can speak with to get Christiana's information confirmed? She is private but will speak about these facts if able to speak to her great-uncle's protestations of using diesel engines in war. She lives in California. M RammageNyliramneaj (talk) 01:07, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

I think there is something wrong here[edit]

"Diesel began building a prototype engine, which was ready for testing by July 1893. The engine was fueled by powdered coal injected with compressed air. This machine, a single 10-foot(3 m) iron cylinder with a flywheel at its base, achieved a compression of 80 atmospheres (8100 kPa). After a nearly fatal explosion, the exploding ammonia engine was strictly limited by his boss Linde. Due to these imposed limits, the machine would not power itself, but it did prove that one did not need a spark to have internal combustion." Is "exploding ammonia engine" correct?

There is confusion here between two different engines. The ammonia engine was an external combustion engine. The coal dust engine was an internal combustion engine. I forget the timeline and details but Grosser's book mentions both efforts. — ¾-10 02:13, 15 May 2008 (UTC)
I see that the paragraph in question apparently has been fixed since the original note was written. — ¾-10 02:20, 15 May 2008 (UTC)

I think this was meant to be in the discussion section[edit]

Before you step off into Diesel's last few weeks of his life you must remember two things; there was only one thing Diesel cared enough about to die for; fuel efficiency. The second thing is; Diesel was working for Linde when he invented his engine; the engine may bear his name, but the legal position over who "owned" the Diesel engine is not at all simple.

Whatever happened in 1913 it has fit with the pattern of the man. Most of the speculations are people who either never knew Diesel, or didn't read the rest of the book.

There is an interesting element to this story that might be investigated; Diesel "disappeared in 1913" and Carl Benz launched the first Diesel truck "before World War 1"

Carl Benz had a vested interest in helping the oil industry dispose of the waste by-products left over from making petrol for their cars. Benz's partner Daimler had been technical director to Otto, and it was unlikely that Daimler would ditch the Otto engine for the Diesel.

But the Otto engine demanded highly refined fuels, and that fuel supply was a severe limit on the sales of their Otto engined cars. Benz needed a means to dispose of the waste, and the Diesel engine might be turned into an ideal waste disposal unit. A Diesel truck would be ideal. But the pure Diesel engine would be more than was required for waste disposal.

Because of the legal position with Linde, it may be possible that Benz could do a deal with Linde / MAN, behind Diesel's back; not involve Diesel, or even tell him; to simplify the Diesel engine to their own design and commercial ends.

If this was the case, such a resulting redesign would be too much for Diesel to bear; it would the destruction of his life's work to allow the Otto engine to waste more fuel, rather than save fuel. That would be a reason for him to jump off the ship.

There are suggestion that Diesel went mad, but consider the legal position; he may have been forbidden by his contracts with Linde to discuss any of this outside the company. Suddenly Diesel's mutterings of "secret enemies" is not madness, but simply terms of employment.

By all means consider the other speculations; but this is the nearest one that fits Diesel the man. The question can only be resolved if there is any documentary evidence of a deal between Benz and Linde; between 1912 and 1913, to change the specification of the Diesel engine, and without Rudolph Diesel's agreement. If such a deal took place, and researchers of Benz or Linde have seen documentary evidence; you may finally solve the puzzle of what really happened on the ship.

Back to the other speculations;

[Comment added by Northnomad on 2007-04-04. Abrupt cut-off at semicolon reflects original comment; it ended there.]

Early life[edit]

An unknown editor on the 7th March has wiped out a chunk of his early life, which was never reinstated. There is no harm in talking about his schooling in France, and his move to London. I shall reinstate this part of the story, which is interesting, and the article is not too long. The last three paragraphs here will fit better under the next heading.LouisBB (talk) 22:31, 25 November 2007 (UTC)



I think this section is gibberish:

"Diesel knew three rules on heat engine efficiency that the expansion of the gas was the key to fuel efficiency had limited the fuel efficiency of his engine. That was the key to Diesel's engine patents; he won his patent on the grounds of liberating the engine from limits to its fuel efficiency.

His answer was - only add the fuel when you want to ignite it. With that simple leap of thinking there is suddenly no mechanical limit to the theoretical efficiency."

  1. What are these 3 rules?
  2. All heat engines are limited in thermal efficiency by the Carnot cycle. The maximum theoretical thermal efficiency is related to the difference in the absolute temperatures of the working fluid at the beginning and end of the stroke. Biscuittin (talk) 21:47, 25 December 2007 (UTC)

No responses received, so I have removed the offending section. Biscuittin (talk) 17:40, 26 December 2007 (UTC)


There is a 1990 in the text that should presumably be an 1890. Further, the word for peanut oil should be arachide, not arachnide. (talk) 22:55, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

Fixed (1900; arachide), and ref added for the quote. — ¾-10 01:58, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

Peanut Oil: probably Urban legend[edit]

The article reads:

Diesel was especially interested in using coal dust or vegetable oil as fuel, his engine in fact ran on peanut oil.

According to the German Article on Diesel, he was indeed interested in alternative fuels; however, the German version says that actual experiments with vegetable oils such as peanut ols are an urban legend. Such experiments would have been illogical, bevause peanut oil was at that time many times more expensive than mineral fuels.

Could someone check that? -- (talk) (Joise) —Preceding comment was added at 21:13, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

There is also a discussion on this fact on the German article. And its told that the French article states that Diesel was using biofuel at the expo in 1900. Yet, they are all asking for proof. --7Piguine (talk) 09:16, 13 May 2008 (UTC)

The diesel cycle Engine that ran on Peanut oil at the 1900 Paris Exposition was in the Otto companies exhibit. They were asked by the French Government to build this engine because the French had colonies that grew peanut oil. Diesel included in his patent a version that ran on coal dust but none that ran on vegetable oil. Columbia had a successful graduate project that modified Lister engines (commonly used in the Third World) to run on SVO straight vegetable oil. The lead graduate student is now a professor there. [Dristen]

As an aside. Deutz switched to Diesel engines as soon as the patent expired and sold off Otto & Cie around 1917.Krontach (talk) 04:35, 30 May 2011 (UTC)

check this[edit]

"Let’s first rewind and go back to the beginning of the 1900s where Dr Rudolf Diesel has just invented the diesel engine and is displaying it at the Paris exhibition. Sat right there is the mother of all diesel engines happily chugging away running on peanut oil! Rudolf had designed the Diesel engine to be run a variety of fuels and during his Paris speech said, "the diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils and will help considerably in the development of the agriculture of the countries which use it." Sounds good for developing countries but not so good for the petroleum industry. A few years later and Rudolf Diesel’s body is found drifting face down in the English Channel. After holding secret talks with the UK navy about fitting diesel engines into their submarine fleet Rudolf Diesel was killed by the French to stop his diesel technology being fitted into submarines over the world, nothing new there then! After Diesel’s death the petroleum industry capitalised on the diesel engine by naming one of their crappy by-products of petroleum distillation ‘diesel fuel’. That’s how dirty diesel fuel has come to be the fuel for diesel engines." — From —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:36, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Grosser's biography says that Diesel was depressed by his debts, that he had been reading some dark and depressing philosophy, and that he put his affairs in order with his son before getting on the boat (a sign of suicide plans). In this telling it sounds like a true suicide. However, the conspiracy theories can never be proved wrong, either. If anyone did kill Rudolf Diesel in 1913 in order to try to stifle or change the usage of diesel engines or their choice of fuels, then they were about a decade too late. By 1913 the technology was already way outside of any one person's control. And the proliferation of motorships (including submarines) was already inevitable. So a homicide (if true) was foolish and futile. Currently the article does not mention any of these things (neither Grosser's details nor conspiracy theories). Maybe it should briefly mention each in a neutral manner. — ¾-10 03:21, 12 June 2008 (UTC)
I think you're jumping to conclusions a bit. Perhaps Diesel received some threats, was concerned for his life and decided to put his affairs in order before the trip? If Diesel was of no consequence to further development/promotion of his engine then the whole trip to the UK would be "foolish and futile," wouldn't it? Yet Diesel "had been invited to participate in several business meetings to lay the groundwork for a new Diesel engine factory. He was also being honored at a special ceremonial dinner. Friends who knew him well testified later that he was very buoyant and excited about the whole affair." C1010 (talk) 00:18, 26 October 2010 (UTC)
Re your first point (perhaps he'd received some threats): Very true.
Re your second point (whole trip would be "foolish and futile," wouldn't it): Not at all. What I was saying is that whether Diesel had lived or died, the technology's development and dissemination was going to happen anyway. That's completely independent of how his own business ventures and particular people and companies might suffer from the loss of his death (which I'm sure they did). An analogy would be Albert Einstein in 1950. Killing him in 1950 might have deprived the world of 5 more years of personal genius and worthwhile contributions; but it would not have stopped the nuclear arms race at all.
Re your third point: You could well be right. My mind is open to either suicide or homicide. I just happen to think that most people latch onto the homicide idea too facilely because it makes a good, juicy story, and because most people like the idea of thinking, "Oh, they say it was suicide, but that's probably just a cover-up. I bet the real story is juicier than that, and only fools would believe the 'official' version." Most people will never read the WP:RS for themselves (quality secondary sources such as biographies, academic work, etc). The most they'll ever do is google the topic, quickly skim the free stuff on the web (including this Wikipedia article), and make a snap judgment that "oh yeah right, I bet it's all a setup." That's the sad truth of human nature. As a Wikipedian I try to stay conscious of that reality and guard against allowing people to mislead themselves so facilely. So as someone who has read a book-length biography, I try to arrive at a balance of coverage that I believe is not WP:UNDUE. All this is only to explain where I'm coming from, and prove that I have given all of this plenty of thought. I well realize that homicide is possible, and I have confidence that, upon reading this explanation, you will understand where I am coming from. I'm OK with your version of the wording being restored. Best regards, — ¾-10 02:43, 26 October 2010 (UTC)
Describing the fuel as, "Dirty Diesel Fuel" sounds like you are trying to make an envronmental statement in a place where it doesn't belong. Whilst anyone would agree that diesel engines used to be synonymous with 'dirty, noisy and smelly', those adjectives cannot be applied to modern diesel engines that are kept properly serviced. In fact the most modern of engines don't even emit any black smoke recogniseable of older engines under any conditions. In vehicle testing stations they have to use much more sensitive equipment to detect the emissions than are necesary with petrol engines. It was also necesary to (controversially) test diesels at full throttle to get anything capable of being measured. Petrol engines, on the other hand, produce easily detectable polutants at idle. (talk) 13:59, 30 October 2008 (UTC)

Date of death[edit]

If the last time he was ever seen alive was 10 pm on 29 September, why are we saying he died on 30 September? We shouldn't be guessing whether he died before or after midnight. I'm changing it. -- JackofOz (talk) 02:25, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

Shouldn't the date of death be 29-30 September? He was seen at 10:00 pm on 29 September going to his cabin. He was gone at 6:15 am on the 30th. He obviously died sometime between those two times - saying that he died on the 29th, that assumes that he died between 10:00 PM and midnight on the 29th, but we don't know that. Jtyroler (talk) 03:23, 22 January 2013 (UTC)

Diesel's Nationality[edit]

Although Diesel spent most of his life working in Germany, he was born a Frenchman in Paris. There is no evidence that he ever changed his nationality and was thus French when he invented his engine. (talk) 13:49, 30 October 2008 (UTC)

We need a source to claim whether he was legally a German or French national. The article on French nationality law seems to hint that in 1858 his birth in Paris, although to foreign parents, in itself would have given him French nationality. (Today it would not.) German nationality law back then would have viewed him as having German nationality. He therefore could have claimed both nationalities. (What relationship that would have to either French or German citizenship at that time is another question, one for lawyers to sort out.) Grosser (1978) states that Diesel was very proud to consider himself a cosmopolitan citizen of the world. Diesel would probably not enjoy reading about himself as either "a German inventor" or "a French inventor". He would have emphasized his work, not his nationality. Encarta calls him "German". Wikipedia really shouldn't call him either German or French without sourcing it. Maybe "French-born of German parents" is best, if putting his nationality in the lede is insisted upon. I would say, simply omit it from the lede. — ¾-10 01:24, 31 October 2008 (UTC)
Update: We have had a good stable version of the nationality for a long while now ("Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel […] was a European inventor and mechanical engineer, famous for the invention of the diesel engine.") Additionally, the infobox has been stable as "Nationality: French and German (born in France of German parents)". I note here tonight that someone just tweaked that to "Nationality: French and Bavarian (born in France of Bavarian parents", and I fully agree with that improvement, because when Diesel was born in 1858, there was not yet a unified Germany. Good work everyone, and I commend Wikipedia for becoming more accurate on this topic than many other published sources, including Encarta and Britannica. — ¾-10 00:55, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

Calling Diesel French and Bavarian (born in France of Bavarian parents) can only evolve out of Anti-German sentiment. First, how can he be called French when we can read in his biography that he and his family obviously due to their nationality were forced to leave France as a result of the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. Maybe he had a French passport but that did not make him French enough. Second, concerning his "Bavarian" nationality, surely Bavaria was an independent country at the time of his birth nearly 52 years after the dissolution of Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. But still Bavaria is Germany and Bavarians are Germans. Just let me give you a counter example: Dante Alighieri's nationality is given on wikipedia as Italian even though Italy was not reunified during his lifetime and nobody gives a thought calling him Florentine due to his place of birth. 00:05, 11 February 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Marawik (talkcontribs)

OK, I guess I follow that logic. The French and Bavarian idea had nothing to do with Anti-German sentiment; it just was based on the things discussed further above. But I can see your points though. I hadn't thought of it that way. I was focusing on the legal sense of nationality, but the cultural sense is just as important to social identity, and it's true that culturally he was viewed as German. OK, I guess I have to retract my criticism of Encarta and Britannica on this point. But I still think there's a big asterisk, figuratively speaking, on calling him "German" rather than "European" (I prefer the latter). However, I think the way to address it is to make a section in the article about his nationality and touch on these points. Regards, — ¾-10 03:16, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

Social theorist[edit]

In the article about the diesel engine it is written that he "was also a well-respected thermal engineer and a social theorist" and his inventions "were initially motivated by the inventor's concept of sociological needs".
Because they did not go further into it in that article, as it shouldn't, I read this article to find out what those social theories were; but I can see no single mention of these aspects of his life in this article.
Obviously he is most well known for his inventions, but maybe someone could add at least a little bit about this other aspect of his life? (talk) 15:50, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

Hot Bulb Engine[edit]

This Hot Bulb engine uses an ignition system similar to that of the Daimler (Otto) engine and is NOT a compression ignition engine. The ignition is provided by a device which glows hot, which ignites the fuel that comes into contact with it. This is apparent from reading the Wiki page on the Hot Bulb engine. Krontach (talk) 19:48, 29 May 2011 (UTC)

This article states that "the supply of liquid hydrocarbon is forced, in a spray form, on to the heated vapouriser which almost instantly changes it into a gas, it combines with the heated air; automatic ignition takes place and propels the piston which forms the working or second outward stroke".

And that is NOT compression ignition unless the heated plate is turned back off. If it were then it would be like the pre-chamber Diesels of Daimler-Benz. Either way, it's not similar to the Diesel 1892 patent.

That engines is ONLY a hot bulb engine according to the original reference and the one I have just looked up. Like the Daimler, it has to heated with a Torch to make the reactor plate hot enough to ignite the fuel, once lit it is self sustaining. All in all a primitive system.

Daimler developed the Glow Plug which is in a pre-combustion chamber which was used in their Diesel engines for a long time and is now being replaced by Blue Motion Diesel (Common rail)Krontach (talk) 19:59, 29 May 2011 (UTC)

Diesel's test engine blew up[edit]

This is directed to some person who thought Diesel was working on a steam engine. The Encyclopedia Britannica says "Diesel planned to use compressed air to introduce the coal dust into the engine cylinder but found it difficult to control the rate of injection so that the maximum pressure of the cylinder would not exceed a safe limit. After the experimental engine was wrecked by and explosion in the cylinder, Diesel gave up the idea of using coal dust and devoted his efforts to the use of liquid petroleum... copyright 1979 Krontach (talk) 04:40, 30 May 2011 (UTC)

Place of death[edit]

The infobox mentions "Died: the English Channel". Since the SS Dresden was travelling from Antwerp to Harwich, I find it hard to believe that it would pass through the English Channel since the English Channel clearly lies much to the south of the route Antwerp-Harwich. Shouldn't this be the North Sea rather than the Channel? Boerkevitz (talk) 20:56, 18 October 2013 (UTC)