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Chevrolet, Louis (25 December 1878–06 June 1941), mechanic, race car driver, and engine designer, was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, the son of Joseph Felicien Chevrolet, a clockmaker, and Angelina Marie (maiden name unknown). Louis Chevrolet’s family moved to Beaune, France, when he was six years old. From his father Louis acquired basic mechanical skills and an appreciation for the importance of precision in machine parts manufacture. While still teenagers, Louis and his two brothers, Arthur and Gaston, established a bicycle making shop. They used the brand name “Frontenac” for their bicycles, a name Louis later applied to automobiles he manufactured....

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Coffin, Howard Earle (06 September 1873–21 November 1937), automotive engineer and airline pioneer, was born near West Milton, Ohio, the son of Julius Vestal Coffin and Sarah Elma Jones, farmers. In 1893 Coffin enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where his mother ran a boardinghouse, but dropped out in 1896 to take a job with the Ann Arbor post office. He was allowed to conduct experiments at the university’s engineering shops, however, and built a one-cylinder gasoline engine and a steam-powered car, which he drove on his mail route....

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Charles Franklin Kettering. Oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; this acquisition was made possible by a generous contribution from the James Smithson Society.

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Kettering, Charles Franklin (29 August 1876–25 November 1958), inventor and automotive engineer, was born in Loudonville, Ohio, the son of Jacob Kettering and Martha Hunter, farmers. He attended public schools and graduated at the top of his high school class. He spent two years teaching and then enrolled in the engineering program at the Ohio State University. Forced by chronic eye inflammation to withdraw at the beginning of his sophomore year, he took a job with a local telephone company line crew. Two years later he returned to Ohio State and graduated in 1904....

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Lockheed, Malcolm (1887–13 August 1958), aircraft engineer and inventor, was born Malcolm Loughead in Niles, California, the son of John Loughead, a hardware store owner, and Flora Haines, a fruit grower and writer. (He later started using a phonetic spelling of his Scottish name, which people had persisted in pronouncing “log-head” or “loaf-head.”) His mother, long separated from her husband, was a college graduate and a former schoolteacher who supported her family by growing and marketing fruit and writing feature articles for the ...

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Milton, Tommy (1893–10 July 1962), race car driver and engineer, was born Thomas W. Milton in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of a prosperous dairy farmer. At six feet tall and 175 pounds, Milton was a talented athlete, focusing on hockey, but an indifferent student. After only three semesters in high school in St. Paul, Milton left to pursue a newly found fascination with racing. Despite having full sight in only one eye, he soon became a champion motorcycle racer and helped to design the steel-soled boot that created the modern style of cycle racing. Increasingly intrigued by auto racing, Milton ran in his first sanctioned contest at the Minnesota Fairgrounds in 1914. He mixed his early racing career with appearances in auto daredevil shows until the famed driver ...