Charles Franklin Kettering

There are many great inventors that deserve to have a more prominent place in the automotive history books. Charles Franklin Kettering is certainly one of them, because his inventions paved the way for the use of electricity in cars. He was born in 1876 on a small farm outside Loudenville, Ohio.

Being raised in a hard working family, young Charles earned his allowance cutting wheat on the neighboring farm. He showed a talent for machines early on, when he bought a telephone with his life savings which was $14 at the time.

Kettering dismantled the device, observed and analyzed the parts for hours. After a while, Charles managed to rebuild it to working state once again. His skill was impressive in comparison to his peers, thus he held classes in a single room schoolhouse nearby.

After graduating from high school, Charles Kettering entered college three times in a span of eight years, finally earning a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1904 at Ohio State University. During those years he took a job with a telephone line crew to expand his practical knowledge and earn additional money.

His first serious job was at National Cash Register in Dayton, Ohio. All the while, Charles Franklin Kettering was experimenting with the use of electricity, the new marvel that was transforming the American industry. His innovations such as an electric motor for cash registers soon brought the good reputation to his name.

Five years later, Kettering had decided to establish an industrial research company, the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO). The company was relying on the emerging automobile industry as their source of income. For three years they perfected various vehicle electrical systems. Kettering and his team developed the first electric starting, ignition and lighting automobile systems.

There was some resistance to the new technology and Cadillac implemented the innovations in 1912 as the first one on the market. General Motors was keeping an eye on this growing company for some time. In the end, the management bought Delco and transformed it to General Motors Research Corporation. Charles Kettering became the Vice President, being completely in charge for automotive innovations.

During his years at General Motors Charles Franklin Kettering continued to be as productive, developing over 300 different United States patent applications. Popularly nicknamed Boss Ket retired from active service at General Motors in 1947. However, he kept the position of a consultant.

The company honored one of their greatest inventors in 1998, when the General Motors Institute was renamed to the Kettering University. His inventions didn't only influence automotive industry. This remarkable man gave his touch to portable lighting systems, solar energy technology, incubators for premature infants, various magnetic diagnostic tools and many more appliances that we take for granted.

Pictures of Charles Franklin Kettering

Charles Franklin Kettering profile   Charles Franklin Kettering working   Charles Franklin Kettering picture


Next: Louis Chevrolet | Return to library | Follow on Facebook