Diesel: Technology and Society in Industrial Germany. Donald E. Thomas, Jr. The University of Alabama Press, University, 1987. 291 pp., illus. $26.95.

The life of Rudolf Diesel invites attention. Here was a man with a brilliant achievement to his credit, a novel power plant with the potential for revolutionizing industry and transportation. The creation of the diesel engine called for both scientific insight and technical skill, and Diesel demonstrated convincingly that he possessed both. Yet, he ended his life by suicide, believing that he was a failure.

Thomas, professor of history at The Virginia Military Institute, has told the Diesel story thoroughly and with understanding. In his student days, Diesel became excited by the idea of developing an engine with high thermal efficiency, ideally a perfect Carnot cycle. The ideal had to be toned down in the long process of working out the theory of the engine, and still more...

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