Lenoir Gas Engine, 1860.
3 3 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 25cm

Lenoir Gas Engine, 1860.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


This was the first practical internal combustion engine, and drove the workshops of the Patent Office between 1865 and 1868. Jean Lenoir (1822-1900) was a Belgian who moved to Paris to work as a metal enameller at the age of 26. Due to the availability in the mid 19th century of piped supplies of coal gas, a compact engine using gas and electric spark to ignite it was seen as an improvement on the steam engine, which needed a boiler, bulky fuel and a large water supply. About 100 Lenoir engines were built by Reading Ironworks Ltd.

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