January 24, 1860 – The jumping spark engine is patented

Patents for internal combustion engines date back to as far as 1807, but none were considered commercially successful until engineer Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir of Mussy-la-Ville, Luxembourg, in modern day Belgium, came up with his own design. His design was the first to burn a mixture of coal gas and air ignited by a “jumping sparks” ignition system. The advances in his engine design entitled him to a patent for his internal combustion engine, which he received on this day in 1960.


Lenoir Gas Engine on display at Quartier Des Arts-Et-Metiers, Paris. By Daryl Mitchell. CC2.0

While the engine was mostly used for stationary purposes, such as power plants, printing presses, water pumps and tooling, Lenoir applied the engines to a few automobiles between 1860 and 1863, most notably his Hippomobile. The three wheeled wagon was powered by a 2543 cc engine producing 1.5 horsepower. In 1863 it was successfully driven from Paris to Joinville-le-Point and back, a total distance of 22 km (14 mi).

Cover: A drawing of the Lenoir Hippomobile.

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