What Came first ? I C. Engine/Gasoline

So what came first? The internal combustion engine or the refinement of crude oil into gasoline.

I’m assuming gasoline for the moment which makes me wonder what it was used for before.

In the 13th century, a rocket using an internal combustion engine was used by in Asia and the Middle East (chapters 1–2, Blazing the trail: the early history of spacecraft and rocketry, Mike Gruntman, AIAA, 2004, ISBN 156347705X). Blatantly stolen from Wikipedia, here.

Modern gasoline, IIRC, not until the 1800’s.
ETA: That’s not an internal combustion piston engine, however. That wasn’t built until the 17th century (also stolen from wikipedia), and it used gunpowder.

The wiki page and all other cite’s I’ve seen show simple “fire arrows” being used in the thirteenth century which are basically large arrows propelled by a gunpowder charge inside a tube.

I’m having a hard time thinking that qualifies as “internal combustion” in the way the OP meant.

Right, but they are the first internal combustion engines. Just not the first internal combustion piston engines.

That’s still built without gasoline (and before gasoline), using gunpowder to propel pistons.

In the way that I think the OP means the question, “gasoline” came first. In the 1800s, crude oil was distilled to produce kerosene, for lighting and other uses. Gasoline and other distillation products were generally discarded at that point.

When inventors in the late 1800s started making internal combustion engines for things like automobiles, they used distillates of coal tar and crude oil. As automobiles started to be produced in larger numbers, the availability of gasoline as a by-product of kerosene production made it a good choice for fuel.

Or better stated, the 1st internal combustion reciprocating engine.

If you think about it, the gasoline had to come first. It makes more sense to develop an engine using an existing fuel than develop one that uses a fuel that doesn’t exist yet (though Diesel seems to have worked that way – still, the question was about gasoline).

In any case, before the automobile, gasoline was used as a cleaning fluid, stove fuel (a form of it is still used for camping stoves), and an anti-lice agent.

Was going to mention the steam or sterling engine, but those were external combustion. However, I thought the first combustion engines used either gunpowder or ethanol based fuels (though come to think of it, they probably also used ‘naphtha’ based fuels, which was, essentially ‘gasoline’, though not formulated anything like it is today).

ETA: Hopefully not already posted, found this cite showing the first working IC.


Slightly OT, the historical note to make here is that just as the petroleum industry (and John D. Rockefeller, et al) was losing it’s market as a lighting fuel to electricity, the development of the internal combustion (reciprocating) engine gave petroleum a new mass market use.

FWIW you can get “casing head” gasoline right out of the ground. My father worked in the oil fields in NM during the depression. He ran his Model A on this casing head gas as the oil company did not re-refine it, they threw it away back then.
So I am going with gasoline came first.

As the automobile was introduced, gasoline was available in shops as a cleaning agent. The famous story of the first long-distance auto trip relates that Bertha Benz took the auto that her husband Karl had invented to visit her mother (Wikipedia says 65 miles away) and fueled it by buying bottles of gasoline at drug stores along the way.