Charles Franklin Kettering (August 29, 1876 – November 25, 1958) sometimes known as Charles "Boss" Kettering was an American inventor, engineer, businessman, and the holder of 186 patents. He was a founder of Delco, and was head of research at General Motors from 1920 to 1947. Among his most widely used automotive developments were the electrical starting motor and leaded gasoline. In association with the DuPont Chemical Company, he was also responsible for the invention of Freon refrigerant for refrigeration and air conditioning systems. At DuPont he also was responsible for the development of Duco lacquers and enamels, the first practical colored paints for mass-produced automobiles. While working with the Dayton-Wright Company he developed the "Bug" aerial torpedo, considered the world's first aerial missile. He led the advancement of practical, lightweight two-stroke diesel engines, revolutionizing the locomotive and heavy equipment industries. In 1927, he founded the Kettering Foundation, a non-partisan research foundation. He was featured on the cover of Time Magazine on January 9, 1933.
Charles F. Kettering
Charles Kettering, on a Time cover, 1933
Charles Franklin Kettering
August 29, 1876
|Died||November 25, 1958 (aged 82)|
|Education||The Ohio State University|
|Spouse(s)||Olive Leora Williams (m. 1905)|
|Parent(s)||Jacob and Martha Kettering|
|Awards||Franklin Medal (1936) |
Hoover Medal (1955)
IEEE Edison Medal (1958)
Charles was born in Loudonville, Ohio, United States, the fourth of five children of Jacob Henry Kettering and Martha (Hunter) Kettering. Poor eyesight gave him headaches in school. After graduation he followed his sister Emma into a teaching position at Bunker Hill School. By all accounts he was an engaging and innovative teacher. He attracted students to evening scientific demonstrations on electricity, heat, magnetism, and gravity.
He took classes at The College of Wooster, before transferring to The Ohio State University. He was a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. Eye problems forced him to withdraw, and he took a job as foreman of a telephone line crew. At first, the termination of his studies caused him to be depressed. Then he found ways to apply his electrical engineering skills on the job, and his spirits revived. He also met his future wife, Olive Williams. When his eye condition improved, he was able to return to his studies and graduated from OSU in 1904 with an electrical engineering degree.
Kettering was hired directly out of school to head the research laboratory at National Cash Register (later known as NCR Corporation). Kettering invented an easy credit approval system, a precursor to today's credit cards, and the electric cash register in 1906, which made ringing up sales physically much easier for sales clerks. Kettering distinguished himself as a practical inventor. As he said, "I didn't hang around much with other inventors and the executive fellows. I lived with the sales gang. They had some real notion of what people wanted."  During his five years at NCR, from 1904 to 1909, Kettering secured 23 patents for NCR. He attributed his success to a good amount of luck but added, "I notice the harder I work, the luckier I get."
Beginning in 1907, his NCR colleague Edward A. Deeds convinced Kettering to develop improvements for the automobile. He told Kettering, "There is a river of gold running past us,"  implying that, with their know-how, all they needed to do was dip into it. Deeds and Kettering invited other NCR engineers, including Harold E. Talbott, to join them nights and weekends in their tinkering at Deeds's barn. They became known as the "Barn Gang," and Kettering was their leader. Boss Ket, they called him. They set their first task as improving ignition, replacing the magneto. In 1909, Kettering resigned from NCR to work full-time on automotive developments. The Barn Gang incorporated as Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company, or Delco.
Early automobiles required a hand crank for starting. Occasionally, when the spark lever was not properly set, the hand crank kicked back, causing serious injury: a broken wrist, arm, or shoulder. On a winter night in 1908, the result was much worse.
Byron Carter, founder of Cartercar, came across a stalled motorist on Belle Isle in the middle of the Detroit River. He gallantly offered to crank the car for the stranded driver. When she forgot to retard the spark, the crank kicked and broke Carter's jaw. Complications developed, and Carter later died of pneumonia. When Cadillac chief, Henry M. Leland, heard the news, he was distraught. Byron Carter was a friend; the car that kicked back was a Cadillac. "The Cadillac car will kill no more men if we can help it," he told his staff.
Leland's engineers were able to build an electric self-starter, but the device was not small enough to be practical. He called Charles Kettering. The engineers at Delco worked around the clock to get the job done by the February 1911 deadline. Kettering later described their work thus: They didn't have a job so much as the job had them.
Kettering's key insight lay in devising an electrical system that performed the three purposes it continues to serve in modern cars: starter and, as generator, producer of spark for ignition as well as current for lighting. Leland approved their product for his 1912 model and placed an order for 12,000 self-starters. Delco, the research and development outfit, had to quickly learn the business of production.
In 1914, Flxible Sidecar Company was incorporated with the help of Kettering, who then became president of the company and joined the board of directors. Kettering provided significant funding for the company in its early years, particularly after 1916, when Kettering sold his firm, the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco), to United Motors for $2.5 million. Kettering continued to serve as president of Flxible until he became chairman of the board in 1940, a position that he held until his death in 1958.
Delco was sold to General Motors in 1918, as part of United Motors Company. Delco became the foundation for the General Motors Research Corporation and Delco Electronics. Kettering became vice-president of General Motors Research Corporation in 1920 and held the position for 27 years.
Between 1918 and 1923, he led the research and development at GM's Dayton research laboratories to commercialize air-cooled engines for cars and trucks. They used fans forcing air across copper fins for heat dissipation. The commercialization, attempted between 1921 and 1923, was unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, nontechnical and technical. Air-cooled engines have had commercial success before and since, in various fields (small engines, aircraft, cars), but the historical moment of GM's "copper-cooled" automotive engine was inauspicious.
Kettering's research in fuel was based on his belief that oil would be in short supply and additives would allow more efficient engines with higher compression. His "high percentage" solution was to mix ethanol with gasoline, while his "low percentage solution" looked for additives that would be added in small quantities to increase what later would be called the octane rating of gasoline. Thomas Midgley Jr. and Kettering identified tetraethyllead (TEL) in December 1921 as an additive that would eliminate engine knocking at a dilution of one thousand to one. While use of ethanol could not be patented, TEL's use as an additive could. Kettering and Midgley secured its patent and proceeded to promote the use of TEL as an additive instead of other options. Kettering became the first president of the newly founded Ethyl Corporation that started to produce TEL in 1923. One year later, he hired Robert A. Kehoe as the medical expert to proclaim that leaded gasoline was safe for humans. That its use was an ecological disaster leading to a global lead contamination was not acknowledged until many decades later.
Max D. Liston, one of Kettering's co-workers at GM, described him "one of the gods of the automotive field, particularly from an inventive standpoint.":4 Liston quoted Kettering as advising him, "People won't ever remember how many failures you've had, but they will remember how well it worked the last time you tried it.":7
Kettering and Deeds had a lifelong business, professional and personal relationship. In 1914, recognizing that Dayton was among the leading industrial cities in the US because of the skilled engineers and technicians in the city, they founded the Engineers Club of Dayton and the Foreman's Club of Dayton, which later on became the National Management Association.
Kettering married Olive Williams of Ashland, Ohio, on August 1, 1905. Their only child, Eugene Williams Kettering, was born on April 20, 1908. Eugene W. Kettering joined Winton Engine in 1930, which was acquired by General Motors and was eventually incorporated into the General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD). The younger Kettering became a central figure in the development of the EMD 567 and the Detroit Diesel 6-71, serving at EMD until his retirement in 1960.
Charles Kettering built a house, "Ridgeleigh Terrace", in 1914. According to local sources, this house was the first in the United States to have electric air conditioning. Ridgeleigh Terrace was the home of his son, Eugene Kettering, until his death. Eugene's wife, Virginia Kettering, lived in the house for many years, restoring and redecorating it. In the late 1990s, the house was seriously damaged in a fire, but it was rebuilt according to the original blueprints.
Some of his memorable quotations are: "It doesn't matter if you try and try and try again, and fail. It does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again.", "Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.", "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there." .
Kettering died on November 25, 1958. After his death, his body lay in honor at the Engineers Club and then was interred in the mausoleum at Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.
Kettering held 186 U.S. patents. He invented the all-electric starting, ignition, and lighting system for automobiles. Electric starters replaced crank (manual) starting of automobiles. First incorporated in the 1912 Cadillac, all-electric starting aided in the growth of the US auto industry by making the automobile easy for anyone to start. Other patents included a portable lighting system and an incubator for premature infants. His engine-driven generator was combined with storage batteries to form a "Delco Plant", providing an electrical power for farmsteads and other locations far from the electrical power grid.
In 1918 Kettering designed the "aerial torpedo", nicknamed the Kettering Bug. The 300 lb papier-mache missile had 12 foot cardboard wings, and a 40 hp engine. It could carry 300 lbs of high explosives at 50 mph, and cost $400. The "Bug" is considered the first aerial missile, and lessons learned from the "Bug" led to development of the first guided missiles, as well as radio-controlled drones.
Kettering and colleagues' development of leaded gasoline ultimately caused the release of large quantities of lead into the atmosphere as a result of the combustion of leaded gasoline all over the world. Due to the neurotoxic effects of lead, leaded gasoline has been widely banned since the late 1990s. The development of Freon using CFCs has been implicated in the depletion of the ozone layer. But during the first half of the twentieth century, most people, including Kettering and his colleagues, did not appreciate or fully understand the environmental degradation potential of their work. They were convinced that the lead concerns were negligible. They were not aware of the ozone layer depletion at the time. It took decades for the lessons to be learned.
His inventions, especially the electric automobile starter, made him wealthy. In 1945, he helped found what became the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, based on the premise that American industrial research techniques could be applied to cancer research.. His son and daughter-in-law, Eugene and Virginia, created Kettering Medical Center in Ohio, as a tribute to Charles Kettering's life and his work in healthcare research.
In 1998, GMI Engineering and Management Institute (formerly General Motors Institute), of Flint, Michigan, changed its name to Kettering University in honor of Kettering. His ideals, prowess, and belief in co-operative education continue there. Kettering is also remembered through the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a cancer research and treatment center in New York City, and through the Kettering Health Network, which includes several hospitals and medical center campuses as well as Kettering College in Kettering, Ohio.
The city of Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, was named after him when it was incorporated in 1955.
Several U.S. public schools are named after him:
The endowed Olive Williams Kettering Chair of The College of Wooster Department of Music is named in honor of his wife.
The Kettering Science center on the Ashland University campus in Ohio is named for him.
His book of patents contains more than 300 separate applications.For the list of patents issued to Kettering, see, Leslie, Stuart W., Charles F. Kettering, 1876-1958 (Doctoral dissertation, University of Delaware, 1980, available at http://udel.worldcat.org/title/charles-f-kettering-1876-1958/oclc/9128472&referer=brief_results Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine) (appendix VII, United States Patents Issued to Charles F. Kettering)
On January 1, 1998, GMI changed its name to honor the man who not only helped found this institution, but also had a strong influence in the concept of professional cooperative education -- Charles "Boss" Kettering.
Barnett Rosenberg (16 November 1926 – 8 August 2009) was an American chemist best known for the discovery of the anti-cancer drug cisplatin.Rosenberg graduated from Brooklyn College in 1948 and obtained his PhD in Physics at New York University (NYU) in 1956. He joined Michigan State University as a professor of biophysics in 1961 and worked there until 1997.
In 1965, Rosenberg and his colleagues proved that certain platinum-containing compounds inhibited cell division and then in 1969 showed that they cured solid tumors. The chemotherapy drug that eventually resulted from this work, cisplatin, obtained US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 1978 and went on to become a widely used anti-cancer drug. The initial discovery was quite serendipitous. Rosenberg was looking into the effects of an electric field on the growth of bacteria. He noticed that bacteria ceased to divide when placed in an electric field and eventually traced the cause of this phenomenon to the platinum electrode he was using.He was awarded the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists in 1979, the Charles F. Kettering Prize in 1984 and the Harvey Prize in 1984.Charles F. Kettering House
The Charles F. Kettering House is a historic house on Ridgeleigh Road in Kettering, Ohio. Built in 1914, and reconstructed after a fire in 1995, it was the primary residence of inventor Charles F. Kettering, founder of Delco Electronics. The Tudor Revival house, also known as Ridgeleigh Terrace, was the first house in the United States with electric air conditioning using freon. The reconstructed house is now owned by Kettering Medical Center, which operates it as a conference center. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.Charles S. Mott Prize
The Charles S. Mott Prize was awarded annually by the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation as one of a trio of scientific prizes entirely devoted to cancer research, the other two being the Charles F. Kettering Prize and the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize. The prizes, worth US$250,000, were awarded annually between 1979 and 2005. The awards were generally considered the most prestigious in the field.The Mott Prize was awarded for "the most outstanding recent contribution related to the cause or prevention of cancer". In 2006, due to financial pressures on the corporation supporting the Foundation, the three awards were consolidated into a single $250,000 General Motors Cancer Research Award.. In 2006, the first and only winner of the General Motors Cancer Research Award was Napoleone Ferrara.Since 2006 no further prizes have been awarded.Chevrolet Series M Copper-Cooled
The 1923 Chevrolet Series M Copper-Cooled was an automobile made to be completely air-cooled by Chevrolet in 1923. It was designed by Charles F. Kettering, head engineer of Delco, the General Motors research division wing in Dayton, Ohio. The automobile used a body style from its predecessor, but incorporated an air-cooled engine. Air cooling, as opposed to water-based cooling, was much more practical in a sense because it did not require a radiator, nor the piping that came with it. Although air cooling was not new to the time period, it was new to engines of that scale. The Copper-Cooled Chevrolet was in fact a feasible project; however, the final product did not live up to the standards that Kettering had imagined. The car dangerously overheated in hot weather, and posed a safety hazard to the drivers. Only a few made it to the sales floor, only to be recalled and destroyed by Chevrolet. The 1923 Chevrolet Series M Copper-Cooled consumed extensive amounts of resources to develop and was a failure in the end.Dayton-Wright Company
The Dayton-Wright Company was formed in 1917, on the declaration of war between the United States and Germany, by a group of Ohio investors that included Charles F. Kettering and Edward A. Deeds of Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO). Orville Wright lent his name and served as a consultant, but other than that, location of one of its three factories in the original Wright Company factory buildings in Dayton, Ohio was the only connection to the Wright brothers. In addition to plant 3 (the former Wright Company buildings), Dayton-Wright operated factories in Moraine (plant 1, the main factory) and Miamisburg (plant 2), Ohio. During the course of the war, Dayton-Wright produced about 3,000 DH-4s, as well as 400 Standard SJ-1 trainers. The company was hurt by the reputation of the DH-4s it produced as "flaming coffins" or "flying coffins", although they were not in reality more subject to catching fire than other aircraft, and by scandals it faced.Edward Andrew Deeds
Edward Andrew Deeds (March 12, 1874 – July 1, 1960) was an American engineer, inventor and industrialist prominent in the Dayton, Ohio area. He was the president of the National Cash Register Company and, together with Charles F. Kettering, founded Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco), an early innovator in automotive technology. Deeds partnered with the Wright brothers in an early airplane manufacturing venture and led the military aircraft production effort in World War I.Engineers Club of Dayton
The Engineers Club of Dayton was founded by Colonel Edward A. Deeds and Charles F. Kettering in Dayton, Ohio in 1914. The club's building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the history of the club involves notable Daytonians and historical figures such as Orville Wright.Flxible
The Flxible Co. (pronounced "flexible") was an American manufacturer of motorcycle sidecars, funeral cars, ambulances, intercity coaches and transit buses, based in the U.S. state of Ohio. It was founded in 1913 and closed in 1996. The company's production transitioned from highway coaches and other products to transit buses over the period 1953–1970, and during the years that followed, Flxible was one of the largest transit-bus manufacturers in North America.Kettering, Ohio
Kettering is a city in Montgomery and Greene counties in the U.S. state of Ohio, almost entirely in Montgomery County. It is a suburb of Dayton. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 56,163, making it the largest suburb in the Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area.Kettering Bug
The Kettering Bug was an experimental, unmanned aerial torpedo, a forerunner of present-day cruise missiles. It was capable of striking ground targets up to 121 kilometres (75 mi) from its launch point, while traveling at speeds of 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). The Bug's costly design and operation inspired Dr. Henry W. Walden to create a rocket that would allow a pilot to control the rocket after launch with the use of radio waves. These designs would be the precursor to the modern-day missiles.Kettering College
Kettering College, (formerly Kettering College of Medical Arts) is a private college in Kettering, Ohio. The college is owned by the Kettering Medical Center and chartered by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Kettering College’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree program is the only Physician Assistant program offered in southwest Ohio . The college was built in 1967 next to the Charles F. Kettering Memorial Hospital.Kettering Foundation
The Kettering Foundation is an American non-partisan research foundation founded in 1927 by Charles F. Kettering. The foundation publishes books and periodicals, employs research fellows, and organizes (through the National Issues Forums) public forums on policy in order to answer the question: "what does it take for democracy to work as it should?" It is based in Dayton, Ohio.
The Kettering Foundation has played an active part in public policy, through for instance active support of the Dartmouth Conferences,The foundation's current president, since 1981, is F. David Mathews; notable board members have included Lisle Carter, Jr.Kettering High School
Kettering High School was a four-year high school within the Detroit Public Schools system. Located in Detroit, Michigan, the school was built in a low-income neighborhood.Kettering Prize
The Charles F. Kettering Prize was a US$250,000 award given by the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation for the most outstanding recent contribution to the diagnosis or treatment of cancer.The award was named in honor of Charles F. Kettering, inventor, former General Motors Director, and pioneer of the General Motors Research Laboratories. It was awarded annually from 1979 to 2005.
In 2006, due to budget constraints the Alfred P. Sloan Jr. Prize, the Charles F. Kettering prize and the Charles S. Mott Prize, originally each worth $250,000, were consolidated into a single General Motors Cancer Research Award with a combined value of $250,000. The first and only winner of the General Motors Cancer Research Award was Napoleone Ferrara.Since 2006 no more prizes have been awarded.Kettering University
Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute of Technology) is a private cooperative education and experiential learning-based university in Flint, Michigan, offering bachelor's and master's degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and business fields.
Kettering University ranked 13th nationally among non-Ph.D.-granting engineering universities and seventh nationally among mechanical engineering programs in the 2017 U.S. News and World Report 'Best Colleges' edition.Kettering University undergraduate students are required to complete at least five co-op terms to graduate. Students gain paid work experience in a variety of industries with Kettering's more than 550 corporate partners, and graduate with professional experiences accompanying their degree.Kettering University is named after inventor and former head of research for General Motors, Charles F. Kettering. Along with his distinguished career that included his development of the automatic cash register and automobile self-starter, as well as research on magnetism and solar energy, Kettering was a proponent of cooperative education. This concept included professional experience to supplement instruction in classrooms and labs. Kettering University's belief in experiential education is based on Charles Kettering's foundational belief in the power of combining theory with practice.Mansukh C. Wani
Professor Mansukh C. Wani, Ph.D. is a principal scientist (emeritus) at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina. He is co-discoverer of Taxol and camptothecin, two anti-cancer drugs considered standard in the treatment to fight ovarian, breast, lung and colon cancers. In 2000, Dr. Wani received an award for applied research in medicine, the Charles F. Kettering Prize, from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation.Dr. Wani was born in Nandurbar, Maharashtra, India. He attended the University of Bombay, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1947 (in chemistry) and a master's in 1950 (in organic chemistry). He moved to the United States in 1958, and received his PhD from Indiana University Bloomington in 1962, when he joined Research Triangle Institute. He currently lives in Durham, North Carolina.Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK or MSKCC) is a cancer treatment and research institution in New York City, founded in 1884 as the New York Cancer Hospital. MSKCC is the largest and oldest private cancer center in the world, and is one of 47 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. Its main campus is located at 1275 York Avenue, between 67th and 68th Streets, in Manhattan.National Management Association
The National Management Association (NMA) was founded in 1925 by Mr. Charles F. Kettering. Initially named the National Association of Foreman, NMA is a national, non-profit leadership development organization headquartered in Dayton, Ohio with a membership of over 22,000.Waterford Kettering High School
Waterford Kettering High School is a public high school in the Waterford School District located in Waterford, Michigan. The official name of the high school is Charles F. Kettering High School, named for the automotive industry pioneer.