Starting a car today is as simple as turning a key or pressing a button because of the effort one person named Charles F Kettering in the early 1910s. His invention which redefined automobiles, received its patent on this day, 102 years ago.
Charles F Kettering was the co-founder of Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO) in Dayton, Ohio, and the first person to receive a patent for an 'engine-starting device'. The 'device' which is more commonly known as the starter motor today, received the U.S. Patent No. 1,150,523 on August 17, 1915.
We very much doubt that most in today's generation would know how cars were started before the invention of the starter motor. The process of starting a car was pretty complicated and required the use of a hand-crank, which was an iron rod. One had to attach the hand-crank to the end of the crankshaft and turn it violently, with all might, in order to turn the crankshaft and get the engine up and running.
Other than requiring great hand and arm strength, this system also had certain risks. The car could backfire or even roll forward, making life pretty dangerous, as a hard backfire was even capable of fracturing the bones of a person.
A better system was very much needed, and in 1911, Henry M. Leland who headed Cadillac at the time, commissioned Charles Kettering with the task of coming up with a solution to make things easier.
Kettering had earlier worked at the National Cash Register Company in America, where he helped in developing the first electric cash register and he used this experience with electric motors to develop the electric starter motor.
The newly developed self-starter was first introduced in the 1912 Cadillac Model 30, and was patented later by Kettering in 1915. By the 1920s, nearly every new automobile had an electric starter as standard.
Charles F Kettering later worked as vice president and director of research at General Motors from 1920 to 1947 and contributed in a great way to the automobile. During his time with GM, several important auto-related innovations were developed, such as leaded gasoline, four-wheel brakes, quick-drying automotive paint, etc.
Kettering also played a role in the development of Freon, a refrigerant used to this day in refrigerators and air conditioners. He also created a treatment for venereal disease and invented an incubator for premature infants.
The world is a better place today, thanks to contributions made by people like Kettering. Well, the least we can do is, remember them for their contributions. So, the next time, you turn the keys in your car or thumb the start button on your motorcycle, know that it is as simple as that because of the contribution of Charles F Kettering.