The Role of Chemistry in History

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Significant People

April 21st, 2008 · No Comments ·

Introduction  – Origins – Significant People – Chemistry

Isooctane Affects History – Advertising – The Future – References


Charles F. Kettering

Charles F. Kettering invented the battery powered starting engine.  It was first installed in the 1912 Cadillac, and helped win the future for the gasoline engine.  When automobile drivers noticed “knocking” he suspected that the source of the knock was not in the engine, but it was in the fuel.  He was determined to find an additive to gasoline that could lessen knocking.  However, he moved from his Dayton Engineering Laboratory to General Motors, and turned the research over to Tom Midgley. 

 Thomas Midgley

Thomas Midgley invented the bouncing pin test engine so that the knock within the engine could be determined by ear.   He also invented an optical gas engine indicator to look at and record the shape of the pressure wave inside the engine’s cylinder which is a result from the combustion of fuel and air.  Anti-knock fuel for airplanes which all had internal combustion engines, became important for the United States during World War I.

Russell Marker 

Russell Marker created the octane rating system that is used to pump gas.  He discovered the difference between heptane and isooctane and how heptane causes a lot of knocking and isooctane prevents knocking.  He concluded that the fact that isooctane has eight carbons and heptane has seven is the difference in the characteristics of the molecules, and just had to do with odd versus even numbers of carbon atoms.

Eugene Houdry

Eugene Houdry invented a catalytic “reforming”” of gasoline to produce a higher octane gasoline which was used in aviation fuel.   It blended refined gasoline, which had an octane number around 70, with pure isooctane and isopentane to increase the octane number.  The reformed gasoline enabled aviation fuel to reach 100 octane with half the additives needed for other gasolines, and enabled military aircraft in World War II to be supplied with high octane gas.


Tags: Isooctane