Charles Kettering

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Charles Kettering, on a Time cover, 1933

Charles Franklin Kettering (August 29, 1876November 24 or November 25, 1958), also known as "Boss" Kettering, was born in northern Ohio, USA. He was a farmer, school teacher, mechanic, engineer, scientist, inventor and social philosopher. He had poor eyesight, but acquired an electrical engineering degree from Ohio State University in 1904. He held that new ideas can be developed through cooperative team efforts and applied this to a broad range of interests.

Kettering held more than 300 patents. He invented the all-electric starting, ignition and lighting system for automobiles. All-electric starting replaced the crank ignition for automobiles. First incorporated in the 1912 Cadillac, all-electric starting aided in the growth of the U.S. auto industry. His patents include a portable lighting system, Freon, a World War I "aerial torpedo," a treatment of venereal disease, an incubator for premature infants and an engine-driven generator, named the "Delco".

He developed the idea of Duco paint and ethyl gasoline. He helped develop diesel engines and solar energy. He was a pioneer in the application of magnetism to medical diagnostic techniques.

Kettering was a researcher for the U.S. automotive industry and formed the Dayton Engineering Laboratories company, Delco, with Edward A. Deeds. Delco was eventually sold to General Motors, where it became the foundation for the General Motors Research Corporation. Kettering became vice president of General Motors Research Corporation in 1920. He held the position as head of research for General Motors for 27 years.

Kettering and Deeds had a lifelong business, professional and personal relationship. In 1914, recognizing that Dayton was among the leading industrial cities in the United States due to the various highly-skilled engineers and technicians working in the city, they founded the Engineers Club of Dayton. After his death, his body lay in honor at the Engineers Club prior to interment in the mausoleum at Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.

In 1998, GMI Engineering and Management Institute (formerly General Motors Institute), of Flint, Michigan, changed its name to Kettering University in honor of Charles "Boss" Kettering. His ideals, prowess, and belief in co-operative education continue there.

As its most prestigious resident, the city of Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, was named for him when it was incorporated in 1955. His home, Ridgeleigh Terrace, was built in 1914 and was the first house in the United States to have air conditioning. Ridgeleigh Terrace was the home of his son Eugene Kettering until his death. Eugene's wife, Virginia Kettering, lived in the home for many years, restoring the home and redecorating it. In 1994, the home was seriously damaged in a fire, but Virginia Kettering, then in her 80s restored it. She continued to live there until she moved to a suite in the nearby Charles F. Kettering hospital when in her 90s.

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