Happy Birthday Charles Rolls: The Co-Founder of Rolls-Royce

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Speed, motor, and aviation were all words that inspired this young boy to become the first motorist during his school days. Hailing from a wealthy family, Charles Stewart Rolls (27 August 1877 – 12 July 1910) has many firsts to his credit including his death. His contributions to the motor and aviation industries laid the groundwork for our current routine activities.

On the occasion of his 144th birth anniversary, here are few interesting yet less known facts about Charles Rolls – the co-founder of Rolls-Royce car manufacturing company.

Date of Birth: 27 August 1877


Died: 12 July 1910

  1. In 1894, Charles enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge, to study mechanical and applied science.
  2. Rolls was a keen racing cyclist who spent most of his time at Cambridge bicycle racing. In 1896, he won a Half Blue and in the following year, he became captain of the Cambridge University Bicycle Club.
  3. In October of 1896, he travelled to Paris to purchase his first car, a Peugeot Phaeton. Interestingly, his Peugeot car was the first car he bought in Cambridge, as well as one of the first three cars he owned in Wales.
  4. In 1902, Rolls opened one of Britain’s first car dealerships to import and sell the French made Mors. In 1903, he set a world land speed record of 93 mph while driving a 30hp Mors in Dublin.
  5. In May 1904, Rolls was introduced to Fredrick Henry Royce by a friend Henry Edmunds, who was also a director of Royce Ltd. In spite of his fondness for three or four cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the two-cylinder Royce 10. In a subsequent agreement signed on December 23, 1904, he agreed to take all of Royce’s cars. These cars would have two, three, four, or six cylinders and be labelled as Rolls-Royces.
  6. In 1906, Rolls and Royce formalised their partnership and established Rolls-Royce Limited, with Royce providing technical expertise and Rolls providing financial backing and business acumen.
  7. By 1907, Rolls’ interest had shifted to flying. After failing to persuade Royce to design an aero engine, Rolls resigned as Technical Director from the board of Rolls-Royce Ltd in 1909, though he remained a non-executive director.
  8. He purchased one of the six Wright Flyer aircraft built by Short Brothers under licence from the Wright Brothers and made more than 200 flights.
  9. On June 2, 1910, he became the first person to fly a non-stop double crossing of the English Channel in 95 minutes. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club in recognition of his achievements.
  10. On 12 July 1910, 32-year-old Charles Rolls died in an air crash at Hengistbury Airfield, Southbourne, Bournemouth. Unfortunately, his Wright Flyer’s tail broke off during a flying display. He was the first Briton, and the eleventh internationally, to be killed in an aeronautical accident. In addition, ​it was also the first powered aviation fatality in the United Kingdom.

“I do not think that a flight across the Atlantic will be made in our time, and in our time I include the youngest readers.”

The above lines by Charles Rolls express his desire for many more inventions and innovations in the aviation industry. With his tragic death, the world lost a young aviation futurist and his deeds. Despite the fact that he lived for a little more than three decades, like a shooting star in the sky, he has made a lasting impression on humanity with his great creations.

The article is a part of the B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from across Industries, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or renewed leaders who moved the industry with his exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight thCharles Rollse person’s achievements and touch base the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian Assange, by following this link or subscribe to your daily newsletter.


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