Invention Of The Internal Combustion Engine – A Brief History

An internal combustion engine uses a fuel that burns in the presence of oxygen and a spark. Explosive combustion pushes a piston into a cylinder. The movement of the piston drives a crankshaft, which drives the wheels of a vehicle or the blades of a turbine. Internal combustion engines are most commonly used to fuel automobiles, motorcycles, ships, airplanes, helicopters, and coal-powered trains.

You can think of a shotgun as a type of internal combustion engine. Fuel in the form of gunpowder explodes in the presence of oxygen and a spark. This explosion creates a force in a cylinder that creates work.

The work is done by pushing an object forward at high speed. In an internal combustion engine, the bullet is replaced by a piston that is forcefully shot forward. Because the piston is connected to a crankshaft, the linear motion of the piston is converted into the rotary motion of a wheel or turbine.

Let’s discuss a brief history of the invention of the internal combustion engine.

Who invented Internal Combustion Engine?

In 1823, Samuel Brown patented the first internal combustion engine to be applied industrially in the U.S.; one of his engines pumped water on the Croydon Canal from 1830 to 1836.

The first commercially successful internal combustion engine was created by Étienne Lenoir around 1860 and the first modern internal combustion engine was created in 1876 by Nicolaus Otto. In 1872, American George Brayton invented the first commercial liquid-fueled internal combustion engine.

The first commercially successful internal combustion engine was created by Étienne Lenoir around 1860 and the first modern internal combustion engine was

Étienne Lenoir was born in Mussy-la-Ville in 1822, which was then in Luxembourg, but is now part of Belgium. In the early 1850s, he immigrated to Paris, France, where he worked as an engineer and experimented with electricity.

In 1860 he patented a gas-fired single-cylinder internal combustion engine, which he mounted on a three-wheeled carriage. Although it worked reasonably well, it was not fuel-efficient, made a lot of noise, and frequently overheated. The engine would shut down entirely if water was not supplied to cool it down, and a tank was required to hold the gaseous fuel.

In 1863 he built a three-wheeled carriage that ran on petrol. During a demonstration in Paris, the car covered a distance of 11 km in around 3 hours, which corresponds to an average speed of 3 km / h.

Not too fast at all! What was so impressive about a carriage than moving so slowly? Well, the fact that it was powered by a motor, rather than a horse or mule, made it a real innovation. His engines were relatively successful with a total of around 500 engines built but left clear room for much improvement.

Lenoir became a French citizen in 1870 for helping the French during the Franco-Prussian War. In 1881 he received the Légion d’honneur, an award for excellence, for his advances in telegraphy. Although Lenoir practically invented the automobile, Lenoir was destitute in his later years. He died in France in 1900.

Various Invention And Inventor Of Internal Combustion Engines

While a number of scientists and engineers paved the way for the invention of the internal combustion engine. The first internal combustion engines did not have compression but ran on an air-fuel mixture that could be inducted or injected during the first part of the intake stroke.

The most significant difference between modern internal combustion engines and the early designs is the use of compression and particularly in-cylinder compression.

History of the internal combustion engine:

  • In 1791, John Barber developed the gas turbine.
  • In 1794 Thomas Mead patented a gas engine. Also in 1794, Robert Street patented an internal combustion engine, which was also the first to use liquid fuel, and built an engine around that time.
  • In 1798, John Stevens built the first American internal combustion engine.
  • In 1807, French engineers Nicéphore Niépce (who went on to invent photography) and Claude Niépce ran a prototype internal combustion engine, using controlled dust explosions, the Pyréolophore, which was granted a patent by Napoleon Bonaparte. This engine powered a boat on the Saône river, France. In the same year, Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz invented a hydrogen-based internal combustion engine and powered the engine with an electric spark.
  • In 1808, De Rivaz fitted his invention to a primitive working vehicle – “the world’s first internal combustion-powered the automobile”.
  • In 1823, Samuel Brown patented the first internal combustion engine to be applied industrially.
  • In 1854 in the UK, the Italian inventors Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci obtained the certification: “Obtaining Motive Power by the Explosion of Gases”.
  • In 1857 the Great Seal Patent Office conceded them patent No.1655 for the invention of an “Improved Apparatus for Obtaining Motive Power from Gases”. Barsanti and Matteucci obtained other patents for the same invention in France, Belgium, and Piedmont between 1857 and 1859.
  • In 1860, Belgian Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir produced a gas-fired internal combustion engine.
  • In 1864, Nicolaus Otto patented the first atmospheric gas engine.
  • In 1872, American George Brayton invented the first commercial liquid-fuelled internal combustion engine.
  • In 1876, Nicolaus Otto, working with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, patented the compressed charge, four-cycle engine.
  • In 1879, Karl Benz patented a reliable two-stroke gasoline engine.
  • Later, in 1886, Benz began the first commercial production of motor vehicles with the internal combustion engine, in which a three-wheeled, four-cycled engine and chassis formed a single unit.
  • In 1892, Rudolf Diesel developed the first compressed charge, compression ignition engine.
  • In 1926, Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket.
  • In 1939, the Heinkel He 178 became the world’s first jet aircraft.
  • 15 May 1941: The Gloster E.28/39 becomes the first British jet-engined aircraft to fly, using a Power Jets W.1 turbojet designed by Frank Whittle and others.
  • 1942: Max Bentele discovers in Germany that turbine blades can break if vibrations are in their resonance range, a phenomenon already known in the US from steam-turbine experience.
  • 18 July 1942: The Messerschmitt Me 262 first jet-engine flight.
  • 1946: Samuel Baylin develops the Baylin Engine, a three-cycle internal combustion engine with rotary pistons. A crude but complex example of the future Wankel engine.
  • 1951: Engineers for The Texas Company—i.e., now Chevron—develop a four-stroke engine with a fuel injector that employs what was called the Texaco Combustion Process. Unlike normal four-stroke gasoline engines, which used a separate valve for the intake of the air-gasoline mixture, the T.C.P. engine uses an intake valve with a built-in special shroud that delivers the air to the cylinder in a tornado-type fashion; then the fuel is injected and ignited by a spark plug. The inventors claimed that their engine could burn almost any petroleum-based fuel of any octane and even some alcohol-based fuels—e.g., kerosene, benzine, motor oil, tractor oil, etc.—without the pre-combustion knock and the complete burning of the fuel injected into the cylinder.
  • The 1950s: Development begins with US firms of the Free-piston engine concept – a crank less internal-combustion engine.
  • 1954: Felix Wankel’s first working prototype (DKM 54) of the Wankel engine.
  • 1986: Benz Gmbh files for patent protection for a form of Scotch yoke engine and begins development of same. Development was subsequently abandoned.
  • 1996: Ford Motor Company files patent for a compact turbine engine.
  • 2004: Hyper-X first scramjet to maintain altitude
  • 2004: Toyota Motor Corp files for patent protection for a new form of Scotch yoke engine.
  • 2021: During the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference 30 states signed a ban on internal combustion engines. Germany and several other participants of the conference did not agree. The Deutz AG presented a new hydrogen-zero-emission-combustion-engine in 2021.
  • 2030: The United Kingdom will become the first to ban the sales of all new vehicles with internal combustion engines.


Who invented the diesel engine?

In the 1890s, Rudolf Diesel invented an efficient, compression ignition, internal combustion engine that bears his name. Early diesel engines were large and operated at low speeds due to the limitations of their compressed air-assisted fuel injection systems.

Who invented the petrol engine?

Nicolaus Otto was a German engineer who successfully developed the compressed charge internal combustion engine which ran on petroleum gas and led to the modern internal combustion engine.

Who invented the steam engine?

In 1698 Thomas Savery patented a pump with hand-operated valves to raise water from mines by suction produced by condensing steam. In about 1712 another Englishman, Thomas Newcomen developed a more efficient steam engine with a piston separating the condensing steam from the water.

Who invented the jet engine?

In 1922, French engineer Maxime Guillaume received a patent for a simple jet engine. Although it was never built, it had the right idea. It consisted of a series of turbines to compress air, which was then mixed with fuel and ignited. The resulting rapidly expanding gas produced thrust.

The first to succeed in making this approach work was a young RAF engineer named Frank Whittle. In the 1920s he developed an array of turbines and compressors which he claimed would produce enough thrust for aircraft propulsion.

However, the British Air Ministry disagreed, prompting him to set up his own company, which manufactured the first working jet engine in 1937. By then, the German physicist Hans von Ohain had developed a similar design that enabled him to hit Whittle in the first actual flight of a jet aircraft – the Heinkel He 178 – in August 1939.