Lenoir's gas engine, 1860


Two-stroke double-acting single cylinder gas engine, patented by Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, France, 1860, and made by Reading Iron Works Limited, Reading, Berkshire, England, 1865. The first internal-combustion engine to be offered for sale, in 1860, Lenoir's engine was an ancestor of the engines in all road vehicles. The engine worked very like a simple double-acting steam-engine. At each stroke gas and air were drawn into the cylinder and fired by an electric spark; on the return stroke the burnt gases were flushed out. Several hundred of these engines were sold, and this one is a very rare survivor. It had been used to drive machinery in the workshop of the Patent Museum for about three years.

On display

Science Museum: Making the Modern World Gallery

If you are visiting to see this object, please contact us in advance to make sure that it will be on display.


Heat Engines (non steam)
Object Number:
1865-21 Pt1
asbestos, brass (copper, zinc alloy), copper (alloy), paint and steel (metal)
Gas Engine Co.

Cite this page


We encourage the use and reuse of our collection data.

Data in the title, made, maker and details fields are released under Creative Commons Zero

Descriptions and all other text content are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence

Using our data


Download catalogue entry as json

View manifest in IIIF viewer

Add to Animal Crossing Art Generator

Download manifest IIIF

Our records are constantly being enhanced and improved, but please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information shown on this website.