“Goodbye” Rudolf Diesel – Died 29 September 1913
Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel (March 18, 1858 – September 29, 1913) was a German inventor and mechanical engineer, famous for the invention of the Diesel engine.
On the evening of September 29, 1913, Diesel boarded the post office steamer Dresden in Antwerp on his way to a meeting of the Consolidated Diesel Manufacturing company in London. He had dinner on board and then retired to his cabin at about 10 p.m., leaving word to be called the next morning at 6:15 a.m. His cabin was found empty during a roll call, and he was never seen alive again. Diesel’s bed had not been slept in, although his nightshirt was neatly laid out and his watch had been left where he could see it from the bed. Ten days later, the crew of a Dutch boat came upon the corpse of a man floating in the ocean of the North Sea near Norway. The body was in such an advanced state of decomposition that it was unrecognizable, and they did not bring it aboard. The crew however, retrieved personal items from the clothing of the dead man, and returned the body to the sea. On October 13, these items were identified by Rudolf’s son, Eugen Diesel, as belonging to his father.
There are various theories to explain Diesel’s death. Some present a case for suicide, and clearly consider it most likely. Conspiracy theories suggest that various people’s business or military interests may have provided motives for homicide, however evidence is limited for all explanations.
Shortly after Diesel’s disappearance, his wife Martha opened a bag that her husband had given to her just before his ill-fated voyage, with directions that it should not be opened until the following week. She discovered 200,000 German marks in cash and a number of financial statements indicating that their bank accounts were virtually empty. In a diary Diesel brought with him on the ship, for the date September 29, 1913 a cross was drawn indicating death.