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Charles F. Kettering

Charles F. KetteringAKA Charles Franklin Kettering

Born: 29-Aug-1876
Birthplace: Loudonville, OH
Died: 25-Nov-1958
Location of death: Dayton, OH
Cause of death: Stroke
Remains: Buried, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, OH

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Engineer, Inventor, Philanthropist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Invented the electric starter

Engineer and inventor Charles F. Kettering had difficulty with school, dropping out of college due to poor eyesight, and worked for several years digging post holes for an Ohio telephone company. After obtaining an engineering degree he worked for National Cash Register Co., where he redesigned and electrified the company's product line. Then, having heard that engineers at Cadillac were frustrated by their vehicles' rather unreliable hand-crank ignition system, Kettering and NCR co-worker Edward A. Deeds (1874-1960) founded the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco, now AC Delco) in 1909. Working out of his home and later his barn, Kettering developed the first electronic ignition system for automobiles, perfected in 1911 and promptly licensed to Cadillac, which introduced it in that company's 1912 models.

In 1916, Kettering invented what became known as the Delco-Light electric plant, a freestanding electric power system that generated power for "flameless lighting", running water, and other industrial applications. In the same year, Kettering and Deeds sold their interest in the company to United Motors Company, which was later absorbed into General Motors. Kettering was later involved with Orville and Wilbur Wright's Dayton-Wright Aeroplane Company, but he spent most of his career with GM, where acquaintances and co-workers called him "Boss Ket."

With more than 100 patents, Kettering's most noteworthy work at GM included the development of "Ethyl" no-knock leaded gasoline, high-compression auto engines, quick drying enamel paint, synthetic aviation fuel, and Freon, the stable and non-toxic refrigerant. His laboratory also made major improvements to automatic transmissions, lightweight diesel engines for railway use, safety glass, shock absorbers, and vehicle braking systems.

He was a driving force in establishment of the Flint Institute of Technology in 1919 and the General Motors Institute in 1926, and with his friend and colleague, GM president Alfred P. Sloan, he established the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in 1945. In 1998, forty years after his death, the General Motors Institute was renamed Kettering University in his honor.

Father: Jacob Kettering (b. 1841, d. 1914)
Mother: Martha Hunter Kettering (b. circa 1844, d. 1920)
Brother: David Kettering (b. 1865)
Sister: Emma Kettering Culler (b. 1869)
Brother: Adam Kettering (b. 1870)
Sister: Daisy Edna Kettering Hyde Long (b. 1884, d. 1949)
Wife: Olive Williams (m. 1-Aug-1905, d. 30-Apr-1946, one son)
Son: Eugene Williams Kettering (president of Kettering Foundation, b. 20-Apr-1908)

    High School: Loudonville High School, Loudonville, OH
    University: College of Wooster (attended briefly, 1896)
    University: BS Electrical Engineering, Ohio State University (1904)

    General Motors VP and Director of Research, GM Research Corp. (1920-47)
    General Dynamics VP of Engineering, Dayton-Wright Aeroplane Company (1916-20)
    General Motors Founder & CEO, Delco (1909-16)
    NCR Engineer (1904-09)
    Member of the Board of General Motors (1920-47)
    Kettering Foundation Founder (1927)
    Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Co-Founder (1945)
    National Inventors Hall of Fame
    ASME Medal (1940)
    American Society of Mechanical Engineers
    National Academy of Sciences (1928)
    Society of Automotive Engineers
    Stroke (several)
    Stroke 25-Nov-1958 (fatal)
    Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society

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