Etienne Lenoir, the inventor of the internal combustion engine

Etienne Lenoir is a Belgian inventor considered to be one of the greatest inventors of all time. And for good reason, he was the first to invent the internal combustion engine. The engine that will allow the development of the automotive sector.

Etienne Lenoir

Etienne Lenoir's life

Étienne was born in Mussy-la-Ville in 1822, a small village near Virton in Belgium. Very young, he showed his interest in science. But understanding that he will not be able to evolve in his small Luxembourg village, he decides to flee at the age of 16, to go to Paris on foot.

There, he works during the day as a waiter, and at night he performs experiments in his room. Curious and touching on everything, he invents and finds solutions for local artisans. He applied for his first patent at the age of 25.

Lenoir’s first type gas engine, 1862.

Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, 1822-1900 Engineer.

Gustave Lefebvre Constructor

Inventory no. : 10923-0000-

© Museum of Arts and Crafts-Cnam / picture credential Michèle Favareille

Etienne Lenoir's inventions

But if he is interested in many things, he remains obsessed with the idea of ​​moving machines all by himself. To get there, he took courses at the School of Arts and Crafts in Paris and studied the operation of various devices, including the steam engine of Denis Papin.

But thinking of these beautiful machines, it is said that they are bulky and heavy because of the boiler to produce steam, and a very large fireplace to heat the water.

His idea, to make sure that combustion takes place inside a compartment, in order to eliminate the bulky boiler and all that goes with it.

Instead of steam, the combustion gases would act directly on the piston, and we would have a very compact engine!

After some unsuccessful attempts, he finds the solution by using coal gas as fuel.

In 1859, Lenoir applied for a French patent for an “internal combustion” engine.

Lenoir's internal combustion engine

January 23, 1860, a date to remember, he shows the fruit of his work. An internal combustion engine that replaces the boiler to move a vehicle without horse. And he begins to manufacture and sell his engines.

He equips dozens of workshops when in January 1860, patent 43,624 was granted to him for his invention.

And while building its engines, Lenoir continues to think. Why not try to spin the wheels with this light engine? No need for the strength of horses or men in this case!

And, in September 1863, it was done!

He makes the first tests of a car powered by a gas engine with a horsepower of a horse and a half.

The motor car travels 11 miles in three hours. The automobile was born!

Etienne Lenoir

January 12th 1822

August 3rd, 1900

Belgium