Charles Franklin Kettering (August 29, 1876 – November 24 or November 25, 1958) was an American inventor, engineer, businessman, and the holder of 140 patents. He was a founder of Delco, and was head of research for General Motors for 27 years from 1920 to 1947. Among his most widely used automotive inventions were the electrical starting motor and leaded gasoline. In association with the DuPont Chemical Company, he was also responsible for the invention of Freon refrigerant for refrigeration and air conditioning systems, as well as for the development of Duco lacquers and enamels, the first practical colored paints for mass-produced automobiles. He led the advancement of practical, lightweight two-stroke diesel engines, revolutionizing the locomotive and heavy equipment industries. In 1927, he founded the Kettering Foundation, a non-partisan research foundation.
Charles was born in Loudonville, Ohio, USA, the fourth of five children of Jacob Kettering and Martha Hunter Kettering. Poor eyesight hindered his progress as a student, but he attended The College of Wooster and in 1904 earned an electrical engineering degree from Ohio State University. He was a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.
Kettering was a researcher first for National Cash Register, and then for the U.S. automotive industry, founding the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (shortened to DELCO) with Edward A. Deeds and Harold E. Talbott. Delco was eventually sold to General Motors, where it became the foundation for the General Motors Research Corporation and Delco Electronics. Kettering became vice president of General Motors Research Corporation in 1920 and held the position for 27 years.