Rudolf Diesel's torment

Rudolf Diesel's torment

He was born in March 1858 and created one of the greatest creations in the industry.

On Valentine's Day, February 14, 1898, the son of the Swede, Emanuel Nobel, arrived at the Bristol Hotel in Berlin. After the death of his father Ludwig Nobel, he inherited his oil company - by far the largest in Russia at the time. Emanuel is tense and alarmed because the deal he is about to strike is of strategic importance to him. After his uncle Alfred decided to donate his gigantic inheritance, which included a huge explosives company and a large stake in the same oil company of the Nobel Fund he created, the latter began to experience serious financial difficulties and he looked for all kinds of solutions. For this reason, he decided to get acquainted with a man already known at that time by the name of Rudolph Diesel. Nobel wants to buy from him the patent rights for the production in Russia of a newly created German efficient internal combustion engine of German origin. Emanuel Nobel prepared 800 gold marks for this purpose, but still believes that he can negotiate a price cut.

The day is very busy for Diesel - he will have breakfast with Friedrich Alfred Krupp, then he will have a meeting with the Swedish banker Markus Wallenberg, and in the afternoon he will be dedicated to Emanuel Nobel. The very next day, the banker and the enterprising inventor signed an agreement that led to the creation of a new Swedish diesel engine company. However, negotiations with Nobel are much more difficult, despite Diesel's claim that the Swede is "more passionate about his engine" than himself. Emanuel's uncertainty is not related to the future of the engine - as a technocrat he has no doubts about it, but as a businessman he believes that the diesel engine will increase the overall consumption of petroleum products. The same petroleum products produced by Nobel's companies. He just wants to work out the details.

However, Rudolph did not want to wait and unceremoniously told Nobel that if the Swede did not accept his terms, Diesel would sell his patent to his rival John Rockefeller. What allows this ambitious engineer turned businessman to blackmail the Nobel Prize so successfully and confidently stand in the way of the two most influential people on the planet? None of his engines can run reliably yet, and he recently signed a contract with beer maker Adolphus Busch for exclusive production rights in the United States. However, his blackmail gave results, and a deal with Nobel was made.

15 years later ...

September 29, 1913 An ordinary fall day. There was a thick fog at the mouth of the Scheldt in the Netherlands, and the steam engines of the Dresden ship rumbled through the holds as they carried it across the English Channel to England. On board is the same Rudolf Diesel, who had sent his wife an optimistic telegram shortly before that the upcoming trip would be successful. It seems to be so. At about ten o'clock in the evening, he and his co-workers, George Carels and Alfred Luckmann, decided it was time to go to bed, shook hands and wandered through their cabins. In the morning, no one can find Mr. Diesel, and when his worried employees search for him in the cabin, the bed in his room is intact. Later, the passenger, who turned out to be a cousin of Indian President Jawaharlal Nehru, will remember how the man's steps were directed towards the ship's rail. Only the Almighty knows exactly what happened next. The fact is that on the September 29 page in the diary of Rudolf Diesel, a small cross is carefully written in pencil ...

Eleven days later, Dutch sailors found the body of a drowning man. Because of its intimidating appearance, the captain passes it on for the good of the sea, preserving what he finds in it. A few days later, one of Rudolf's sons, Eugen Diesel, recognized them as belonging to his father.

In the deep darkness of fog ends the promising career of the creator of the ingenious creation, named after him "diesel engine". However, if we look deeper into the nature of the artist, we find mentally torn apart by contradictions and doubts that give full reason to recognize as authoritative not only the thesis that he may have become a victim of German agents who want to prevent the sale of patents. The British Empire was on the eve of an imminent war, but Diesel committed suicide. Deep agony is an integral part of the inner world of a brilliant designer.

Rudolph was born on March 18, 1858 in the French capital Paris. The rise of chauvinist sentiments in France during the Franco-Prussian War forced his family to emigrate to England. However, their funds are extremely insufficient, and his father is forced to send young Rudolph to his wife's brother, who is not an accidental person. Diesel's uncle was then the famous Professor Barnikel, and with his support he brilliantly graduated from the Industrial School (then the Technical School, now the University of Applied Sciences) in Augsburg, and then the Technical University of Munich, receiving a diploma with honors. . The efficiency of the young talent is phenomenal, and the persistence with which he strives to achieve his goals simply amazes others. Diesel dreams of creating the perfect heat engine, but ironically, it ends up in a refrigeration plant. In 1881, he returned to Paris at the invitation of his former mentor, Professor Karl von Linde, the inventor of the ice maker named after him, and laid the foundations for today's giant Linde cooling system. There Rudolph was appointed director of the plant. At that time, gasoline engines were just starting, and in the meantime, another heat engine was created. It is a steam turbine, recently invented by the French Swede De Leval and the Englishman Parsons, and is vastly superior in efficiency to a steam engine.

In parallel with the development of Daimler and Benz and other scientists, they are trying to build engines powered by kerosene. At that time, they did not yet know well the chemical nature of the fuel and its tendency to detonate (explosive ignition under certain conditions). Diesel closely monitors these events and receives information about these events and after many analyzes realizes that something fundamental is missing in all projects. He came up with a new idea that was radically different from the underlying Otto-based engines.

Ideal heat engine

“In my engine, the air will be much thicker and then, at the last moment, fuel will be injected,” says the German engineer. "The elevated temperatures will cause the fuel to self-ignite, and the high compression ratio will make it much more economical." A year after receiving a patent for his idea, Diesel published a brochure with a rather loud and defiant title "Theory and creation of a rational heat engine, which should replace the steam engine and now known internal combustion engines."

Rudolf Diesel's projects are based on the theoretical foundations of thermodynamics. However, theory is one thing, and practice is quite another. Diesel has no idea what the behavior of the fuel it will inject into the cylinders of its engines will be. First, he decided to try kerosene, which was so widely used at the time. However, the latter is obviously not a solution to the problem - on the first try, an experimental engine manufactured at the Augsburg engineering plant (now known as the MAN heavy truck plant) burst into pieces, and one pressure gauge almost killed the inventor, flying centimeters. out of his head. After many unsuccessful attempts, Diesel still managed to start the experimental car, but only after making some design changes and only when he switched to the use of a heavier oil fraction, later named after him "diesel fuel".

Many entrepreneurs are beginning to take an interest in Diesel's developments, and his projects are about to revolutionize the world of heat engines, because his engine actually turns out to be much more economical.

Proof of this was presented in the same year 1898 in which our story began, in Munich, where an exhibition of machines was opened, which became the cornerstone of the further success of Diesel and its engines. There are engines from Augsburg as well as a 20 hp engine. the Otto-Deutz plant, which drives an air liquefaction machine. There is especially great interest in the motorcycle produced at the Krupp factories - it has 35 hp. and rotates the shaft of the hydraulic pump, creating a stream of water 40 m high. This engine works on the principle of a diesel engine, and after the exhibition, licenses for it are bought by German and foreign companies, including Nobel, which receives the rights to manufacture the engine in Russia. .

As absurd as it may seem, at first the diesel engine met the greatest resistance in its homeland. The reasons for this are quite complex, but related to the fact that the country has significant reserves of coal and almost no oil. The point is that while at this stage the gasoline engine is seen as the main vehicle for automobiles with no alternative, diesel will be used primarily for industrial purposes, which can also be done with coal-fired steam engines. As he faces more and more detractors in Germany, Diesel is forced to contact many manufacturers in France, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Russia and America. In Russia, Nobel, together with the Swedish company ASEA, successfully built the first merchant ships and tankers with a diesel engine, and at the beginning of the century, the first Russian diesel submarines "Minoga" and "Shark" appeared. In subsequent years, Diesel made great strides in improving his engine, and nothing can stop the triumphant path of his creation - not even the death of his creator. It will revolutionize transportation and is another invention of the era that could not function without petroleum products.

Calm Diesel

But, as we said earlier, there are many contradictions lurking behind this largely glamorous facade. On the one hand, these are the factors of time in which events take place, and on the other, the very essence of Rudolf Diesel. Despite his success, during a trip in 1913, he found himself almost completely insolvent. For the general public, Diesel is a brilliant and enterprising inventor who has already become a millionaire, but in practice he cannot rely on bank guarantees to conclude transactions. Despite his success, the designer fell into a deep depression if such a term existed at the time. The price he paid for his creation is enormous, and he is increasingly tormented by the thought of whether humanity needs it. Instead of preparing for his presentations, he is obsessed with existential thoughts and reads "hard but infinitely satisfying work" (in his own words). In his cabin on the ship "Dresden" was found a book by this philosopher, in which a silk marking tape was placed on the pages where the following words could be found: earn, they almost always come to self-hypnosis that talent is an inviolable principle of their personal capital, and material wealth is just a mandatory percentage. These same people usually end their lives in extreme poverty ... "


Does Diesel recognize his life in the sense of these words? When his sons Eugen and Rudolf opened the family treasury at home in Bogenhausen, they found only twenty thousand marks in it. Everything else is consumed with extravagant family life. An annual overhead cost of 90 Reichmarks goes into a huge house. Shares in various companies do not bring dividends, and investments in Galician oil fields turn out to be bottomless barracks.

Diesel's contemporaries later confirmed that his wealth disappeared as quickly as it appeared, that he was just as brilliant as he was proud and selfish, that he did not consider it necessary to discuss matters with any financiers. . His self-esteem is too high to consult with anyone. Diesel even participates in speculative transactions, and this leads to huge losses. His childhood, and especially his strange father, who is engaged in a walking trade in various little things, but is considered a representative of some alien forces, probably greatly influenced his character. In the last years of his life, Diesel himself, who became the antithesis of this behavior (the reasons for this behavior lie in the field of psychoanalysis), said: “I am no longer sure if there is any benefit from what I have achieved in my life. I don't know if my machines have made people's lives better. I'm not sure of anything ... "

The pedantic order of a German engineer cannot arrange inexplicable wanderings and torments in his soul. If its engine burns every drop, its creator will burn ...

Text: Georgy Kolev

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