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He Made Your Life Possible

He Made Your Life Possible

Book review series, Part 1

I’m calling an audible here. I was planning to do a send up of UNESCO and the absolutely Stalinist plans they have for you. These plans will be carried out with the full cooperation, coordination and approval of the Biden Administration (or Obama’s third term).

But, ya know what? I don’t want to harsh my mellow today, or yours. So I’ve decided to provide a long-promised book review for you. I have several books to discuss with you. But this one was the subject of more than one episode in recent weeks. I really should have detailed this work weeks ago.

There are a bushel of links at the end of the text that address this, and coming episodes.

The famous guy you never knew…but should have.

I have a completely rehabilitated understanding of the diesel engine as a result of understanding our subject. If you’re following in the text, Did you catch my mistake in that sentence? I made the same mistake for the entirety of my life until last month.

The name of the engine is Diesel (uppercase D) and, citing another of my mistakes over the years, the name is not characterized by the fuel it uses; quite the other way ‘round.

In The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel: Genius, Power and Deception on the Eve of WWI*, author Douglas Brunt dispels many a myth about the technology, while informing us about a most fascinating man.


Let’s begin with the man. Few men in history have given us more, and understood their own creations more, then Rudolf Diesel. Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison did have a solid grasp on what they wanted to accomplish. They understood their medium enough to create wonders that served and amazed the world they sought to serve. BUT they didn’t have the soup-to-nuts knowledge Diesel would have to acquire, while growing his big idea. Diesel would not only teach himself the chemistry and dynamics of fuel, but also applied mechanical work, mass versus work, metallurgy, and large-scale mechanical modeling.

And while not afraid to get his fingers dirty, he was by no means a stout, gruff grease monkey I always associated with his engine. Rudolf had a challenging life. It was a life that could have rendered many bitter and resigned to fate. But he grew to be an optimistic and sensitive man. Brunt does a great job of portraying the development.

In order to understand the evolution of the Diesel engine concept, and to give us the full sweep of the historical significance of the technology, the author takes us through the entire life of the man behind it. We learn about the childhood that shaped him and the multifaceted life he led.

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We witness the slowly developing but inevitable clash between Rudolf and the dark figures that dominated industry and politics in his day. We watch, as we have so many times, a creation intended for infinite good is turned to the use of things evil.

Your host always viewed diesel power, especially in personal application, to be loud, slow, lumbering cousins of our gasoline powered wonders. I had it all exactly backward. I was sold as like most of you, on the idea that gasoline was king. After all, it’s gasoline that provides the incredible power and speed for our muscle cars. It’s sexy, right?

Well, how many of us - be honest - have EVER needed the speed of a muscle car? IN terms of NEED, the answer is none of us, except perhaps police cars. And even they can’t REALLY use the full power of their cars without risk of death. You were sold, by purveyors of a product, to THINK it was important.

And sexy? Yeah, same thing. If being a candidate for intimate affection requires a car of a certain shape, and a speed capability YOU WILL NEVER TAP, you need to work on yourself. But we’re suckers. And the cars companies, and their partners in the petroleum business know this.

And yes, I know. Gas cars are lighter vs horsepower. Seriously, how often has that kind of efficiency been important in your life?

The fact is the diesel engines are far more fuel efficient than their gasoline cousins. And THAT is why John D. Rockefeller and his industrial descendants DO NOT want you in a Diesel car. Trucks, sure. They burn a lot of petroleum. Their engines are huge, again a factor larger than you or I will likely need for personal transportation. But in a car? Diesel is by far the superior product.

I will let Brunt and Rudolf himself explain why per mile, and per hour run, Diesel, AS DESIGNED, is cleaner than gasoline, hands down. The answer will surprise you.

Tip Jar

My next vehicle SHOULD be a Diesel. But their are few people who want to sell me one for the reasons advanced above. Those reasons are detailed in the book.

But the book is not an argument of gas vs Diesel - at least not nakedly so. That argument evolves with the character and his times, as told by Brunt.

As a biography/fact-based murder mystery, Mysterious Case… will propel you forward and keep you in the game to the end. And you DO want to stay to the end. The book details without boring you. It argues without rancor, using the natural narrative as a vehicle.

I’m giving this book **** four stars. Highly recommended.

The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel: Genius Power and Deception on the Eve of WWI by Douglas Brunt

Part 2 of this reiew here!

In coming weeks, I’ll review:

After Dunkirk by Lee Jackson. Part 1 of a WWII historical fiction series.

Jefferson's Godfather, the Man Behind the Man: George Wythe, Mentor to the Founding Fathers by Suzanne Munson. You can see Suzanne’s thoughtful reflections on both men by hitting the button.

Suzanne Munson on the P4B.

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