Happy 100th Birthday, Felix Wankel – RotaryNews.com

29 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Happy 100th Birthday, Felix Wankel – RotaryNews.com
Mazda Eunos Cosmo

Today, Aug 13, 2002 would have been Falix Wankel’s 100th birthday. Felix was the inventor of the Rotary Engine. Celebrations are taking place in the German Town of Lahr

Lahr has organized a large Wankel Event with numerous high points, including a showing of many rotary powered vehicles like the NSU Ro 80, NSU Spider, Citroen gs Bi-rotor, all series of Mazda RX-7s, the Mazda Cosmo Sport 110s, Mazda Eunos Cosmo, Mercedes Benz C111, Hercules, Suzuki, and Norton motorcycles. Other festivities include music, talks about the life of Felix, wine receptions, and food in the best German tradition!

Used by permission from Alan Marr

Dr. Ing. Felix Heinrich Wankel (1902-1988)

Inventor and Developer of the Practical

Rotary Combustion Engine – Wankel RCE

* 1921: Finished formal education (high school) age 19.

* 1933: Applied for patent on a DKM engine.

* 1936: Received patent.

* 1951: Collaboration with NSU and Walter Froede.

* 1957: DKM engine runs.

* 1958: KKM engine runs.

* 1969: Honorary Doctorate from Technische Universit�t M�nchen.

Dr. Wankel Image Felix Wankel was born August 13, 1902 at Schillerstrasse 11 (4?) in Lahr in the Black Forest in Swabia in Germany (Otto, Daimler, and Benz also came from Swabia). He was the only child of Rudolf Wankel (1867-1914), a senior forestry official (Grossh. Bad. Oberfoerster, Forstassessor, Forstbeamten), and Martha Gertrud (Gerty) Heidlauff (1879-?).

His father was killed in August 1914 by schrapnel at Dornach (Elsass (Alsace?)) in World War I as an Oberleutnant.

Early Work

Wankel went to Unterprima High School, but he graduated from high school at the age of 19. Although the poverty of his family (widowed mother in postwar Germany) meant he had to go to work and could not apprentice or follow further full-time studies, he gained academic recognition within his own time.

His first job was in 1921, printing, stocking, and apprenticing in sales for a scientific book publisher in Heidelberg, but Wankel devoted his energy to tinkering, especially after losing the sales job in 1924 in the German Depression. He opened his own workshop that year in Heidelberg.

Felix Wankel conceived the idea of a rotary engine in 1924. Wankel’s first attempt to obtain a patent was in 1926 for a grease turbine, but it was predated by an Enke design from 1886. In 1927 he made drawings of the shape of the drehkolbenmaschine without uneven moved sections or rotary piston engine and of sealing parts.

He received his first patent in 1929 (DRP 507 584). He would continue to be issued patents for six decades. In 1933 he applied for a patent for a DKM engine, which he received in 1936.

Like many middle class Germans of his time, ruined by the runaway inflation of the 1920’s, Wankel had been attracted by the political and economic philosophies of national socialism. As a young man he was a member of the Hitler Youth (where he met his wife, Emmy Kirn) and then a member of the NSDAP party. He resigned from it in 1932 which was the right idea, but there was no best time to do so, because in 1933 the Nazis came into power.

This lead to conflict because Wankel had exposed some corruption by the provincial chief (Gauleiter) Wagner. He was arrested and held in prison by the Nazis for some months in Lahr until an industrialist and an engineer intervened on his behalf.

By 1936 he had resettled in the Lindau Bodensee area. In the following years, Wankel mostly made his way by ingenious work on rotary valves and sealing technology for Lilienthal, BMW, DVL, Junker, and Daimler-Benz. During this time he developed various DKM prototypes and also rotary pumps and compressors.

When the French army invaded in 1945, his workshops and research were dismantled (destroyed) by the French and he was imprisoned until 1946.

Collaboration with NSU

During the Allied occupation, Felix Wankel began secretly writing his book on the organization of rotary piston engines. He was able to rebuild a research operation by 1951 when he interested NSU in development. This lead to collaboration with Walter Froede. head of the motorcycle racing program, who would ultimately make the decision to adopt the KKM type.

The first truly functional Wankel rotary engine was a DKM type that ran in February 1957. By May a prototype was able to run for two hours and produce 21 bhp. The first KKM engine ran on July 7, 1958.

Many people had proposed rotary engine designs, but none had pursued it for as long or as relentlessly as Felix Wankel. He and NSU rigorously investigated all technical aspects such as sealing, spark plug positioning, port timing, cooling, lubrication, combustion, materials, and manufacturing tolerances.

Thus where all others had failed, he and NSU were able to succeed by combining imaginative invention and scientific engineering.

In 1957 Wankel had the good business sense to create Wankel GmbH with his partner at the time Ernst Hutzenlaub, to manage royalties. In August 1971 Wankel GmbH was sold to LonRho for 100 million DM ($26.3 million). He created a research institute (TES) in Lindau / Bodensee (in 1976?) as a branch of the Frauenhoffer Institute, but exercised an option to buy it back later. TES was supported by Daimler Benz until 1993.

There is a Technische Entwicklungs Stelle between Lindau and Bregenz which has some exhibits about Wankel.

Mazda Eunos Cosmo


Felix Wankel was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Technische Universit�t M�nchen on December 5, 1969. He received the Federation of German Engineers Gold Medal in 1969, Germany’s highest civilian honour the Grand Federal Service Cross in 1970, the Franklin Medal in Philadelphia in 1971, the Bavarian Service Medal in 1973, the Honour Citizen of Lahr in 1981, and the title of Professor in 1987.

He declined honorary citizenship of Lindau when the city rejected his application to build a boathouse with museum there. He set it up on the Swiss side of the Bodensee, partly as a satellite research institute (place to think), partly as a way to obtain Swiss citizenship, partly for taxes, and partly for neutrality in case of war.

Wankel never possessed a driver’s license in his life. There are Felix-Wankel-Stra�e streets in Aalen, Dachau, Euskirchen, Heilbronn, Neckarsulm, Oldenburg, Ostfildern, Rottenburg, Schweinfurt, Sennfeld, Stuhr (Bremen), and Zaberfeld, and a Felix-Wankel-Ring in Lenting, all in Germany. Wankel’s grave


In 1986 he sold his Institute for 100 million DM to Daimler Benz. He was very active late in life, filing a patent in 1987 that was granted in Jan. 1989. After a long illness, Dr.

Wankel passed away on October 9, 1988, in Lindau, Germany (ref.), where he did much of his research and where Wankel R D is located (though some place his death in Heidelberg; ref.).

Animal Welfare

Dr. Wankel had a strong impulse towards animal welfare. Since 1972 there is the Felix Wankel Tierschutz Forschungspreis: Prize for Protection of Animals in Research, maximum DM 50,000 for outstanding research to limit, replace, or as much as possible discontinue experiments with live animals. It may also be awarded for research that promotes the concept of animal protection.

Write to Dekanat der Tier�rztlichen Fakult�t der Ludwig Maximilians Universit�t, Veterin�stra�e 13, 80539 M�nchen, Germany, Tel: 089-2180 2512.

In 1994 or 95 it was won by Dr. Markus Stauffacher at the Institute for Laboratory Animals at the University of Zurich, for work in the area of animal husbandry. In 1997 it was won by Kuck and Winter for an Alternative Method Myograph for physiological instruction.

In 1978, the International Society for Livestock Husbandry (Internationale Gesellschaft f�r Nutztierhaltung – IGN) was created from the suggestion of Dr.h.c. Felix Wankel and with his support.

A quotation from Felix Wankel: Wenn jemand Tierschlachtung und Tierversuch noch v�llig unbeeindruckt bejaht, dann ist in seiner menschlichen Entwicklung ein St�ckchen Steinzeit noch nicht �berwunden. If someone slaughtering animals or doing bio-assay is still completely unimpressed, then in human development a bit of Stone Age is not yet overcome.

A good German language (Deutsch) essay about Dr-Ing. Wankel and the RCE is available.

Felix Wankel wurde am 13. August 1902 in Lahr geboren und starb am 9. Oktober 1988 in Lindau. Er war Ingenieur und entwickelte den Wankel Drehmotor.

Dieser unterschied sich durch die Pr�senz eines umkreisenden Drehzylinders in der Form eines gekr�mmten gleichseitigen Dreiecks. Die Vorteile in der Maschine bestanden in Leichtigkeit, wenigen beweglichen Teilen, Kompaktheit, geringen Anfangskosten und hoher Leistung. 1954 entwickelte Wankel den ersten Drehkolbenmotor, der von Mazda produziert und entwickelt wurde.

Sp�ter wurde er Direktor seiner eigenen Forschungseinrichtung in Lindau. Short Biographies of Noted Germans, Austrians and Swiss

Copyright � 1996, 1998, 2000 Alan Marr. T

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