From the Archives: The man behind the Diesel Lab

Michael Bezilla
July 13, 2010

Penn State research had not extended much beyond agriculture when 30-year old Paul Schweitzer arrived on campus in 1923. The Hungarian-born mechanical engineer soon made the University one of America's pioneer academic centers for the study of diesel engines.

Paul Schweitzer

Paul Schweitzer held 23 patents.

Rudolph Diesel had invented the engine that bore his name in 1897, but for many years its weight and other restrictions limited it to marine use and a few industrial applications. Schweitzer, working with other Penn State faculty and graduate students, carried out investigations into scavenging, supercharging, and other techniques that led to more powerful and fuel-efficient, lighter-weight engine designs. Research in the Diesel Lab helped to pave the way for widespread use of diesels in cars, trucks and buses, and a host of other commercial settings that are common today.

Numerous internal-combustion engine manufacturers looked to the lab for advice and information on improving their products. Schweitzer alone held 23 patents. The U.S. Navy was so impressed that during World War II, it partnered with Penn State to teach engineering officers the intricacies of diesel technology.

The Diesel Lab was Penn State's first technology-based research initiative to win international recognition and served as the nucleus around which a much broader program of engineering research later developed.

Paul Schweitzer in Penn State Diesel Lab

Schweitzer inspects a fuel injection pump, a key determinant of a diesel engine's efficiency.

Graduate students inspect Penn State Diesel Lab equipment

Penn State faculty and graduate students carried out investigations into techniques that led to more powerful and fuel-efficient, lighter-weight engine designs.

Paul H. Schweitzer headed the diesel engine laboratory at Penn State from 1923 until his retirement in the 1950s.

Last Updated July 13, 2010