On This Day
1807 – Nicéphore Niépce is awarded a patent by Napoleon for the Pyréolophore, the world’s first internal combustion engine, after it successfully powered a boat upstream on the river Saône in France.
The Pyréolophore[a] (French: [pi.ʁe.ɔ.lɔ.fɔʁ], pea-ray-oh-loh-for) was one of the world’s first internal combustion engines. It was invented in the early 19th century in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, by the Niépce brothers: Nicéphore (who went on to invent photography) and Claude. In 1807 the brothers ran a prototype internal combustion engine, and on 20 July 1807 a patent was granted by Napoleon Bonaparte after it had successfully powered a boat upstream on the river Saône.
The Pyréolophore ran on what were believed to be “controlled dust explosions” of various experimental fuels. The fuels included mixtures of Lycopodium powder (the spores of Lycopodium, or clubmoss), finely crushed coal dust, and resin.
Operating independently, in 1807 the Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz built the de Rivaz engine, a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine. These practical engineering projects may have followed the 1680 theoretical design of an internal combustion engine by the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens. The separate, virtually contemporaneous implementations of this design in different modes of transport means that the de Rivaz engine may be correctly described as the first use of an internal combustion engine in an automobile (1808), whilst the Pyréolophore was the first use of an internal combustion engine in a boat (1807).
Born On This Day
1873 – Alberto Santos-Dumont, Brazilian pilot (d. 1932)
Alberto Santos-Dumont (Portuguese: [awˈbɛʁtu ˈsɐ̃tuz duˈmõ]; 20 July 1873 – 23 July 1932, usually referred to as simply Santos-Dumont) was a Brazilian inventor and aviation pioneer, one of the very few people to have contributed significantly to the development of both lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air aircraft.
The heir of a wealthy family of coffee producers, Santos-Dumont dedicated himself to aeronautical study and experimentation in Paris, where he spent most of his adult life. In his early career he designed, built, and flew hot air balloons and early dirigibles, culminating in his winning the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize on 19 October 1901 for a flight that rounded the Eiffel Tower. He then turned to heavier-than-air machines, and on 23 October 1906 his 14-bis made the first powered heavier-than-air flight in Europe to be certified by the Aéro-Club de France and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. His conviction that aviation would usher in an era of worldwide peace and prosperity led him to freely publish his designs and forego patenting his various innovations.
Santos-Dumont is a national hero in Brazil, where it is popularly held that he preceded the Wright brothers in demonstrating a practical airplane. Countless roads, plazas, schools, monuments, and airports there are dedicated to him, and his name is inscribed on the Tancredo Neves Pantheon of the Fatherland and Freedom. He was a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters from 1931 until his suicide in 1932.
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