On this day in 1826, Samuel Morey received a patent for the first internal combustion engine. His name has been largely obscured due to a lack of records about his life and work, but his invention is believed to be the first use of liquid fuel in a combustion engine and the first use of what would later become the modern carburetor.
According to research from the University of Dartmouth and in the towns in New England where he worked, Morey started his work on paddle wheel boats, and may have been instrumental in creating the first steam power paddlewheel. He created a crank-driven steam engine that was used in shipping and factories, then moved on to working with liquid fuels.
He at first used water-gas, a combination of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, for lighting. He eventually used vapor of turpentine to run the first true combustion engine, in which the explosion of the vapor indirectly drove a piston. In fact, the difference in pressure between the atmosphere and the vacuum created by the rapidly cooling gas moved the piston.
Although other researchers were working on similar engines at the time, Morey was unique in his use of a heated surface carburetor. He retired “in quiet” after his successful demonstration of a car running on the combustion engine did not lead to his finding a buyer for the product.