Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,443 pages of information and 245,911 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

William Barnett

From Graces Guide

William Barnett was a British inventor who, in 1838, applied for a patent for an internal combustion engine design.

In 1838 he invented a double-acting gas engine. Its single cylinder was vertically placed, and explosions occurred on either side of the piston.


Extract from Internal Combustion Engines by Wallace L. Lind. Published 1920 Boston.

Barnett describes three engines, the first is single-acting, the second and third are double-acting. All these engines compress the explosive mixture before igniting it.

In the first and second engines the gas and air are compressed by pumps into receivers separate from the motor cylinder, but communicating with it by a short port which is controlled by a piston valve. The piston valve also serves to open communication between the cylinder and the air when the motor piston discharges the exhaust gases.

In the third engine the explosive mixture is introduced into the motor cylinder by pumps, displacing, as it enters, the exhaust gases resulting from the previous explosion. The motor piston by its ascent and descent compresses the mixture. Part of the compression is accomplished by the charging pumps, but it is always completed in the motor cylinder itself.

In all three engines the ignition takes place when the crank is crossing the dead centre, so that the piston gets the impulse during the whole forward stroke.

The flame method of ignition invented by Barnett was very efficient. It was widely used until about 1892. Previous to 1860 the gas engine was in the experimental stage. Many attempts were made to improve it, but none of the inventors sufficiently overcame the practical difficulties to make their engines a commercial success.


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