Few innovations throughout history are as important as the internal combustion engine.
In 1807, the Niepce brothers received a patent on an internal combustion engine but failed to commercialize it. The brothers also invented photography.
The first known working internal combustion engine (ICE) belongs to Lenoir. He converted a steam engine to burn coal gas using sparks, the modern internal combustion engine. Lenoir was well funded with two million francs.
About 1862 Lenoir introduced a car that used his engine and traveled about 3km/hr. His engine did not compress the fuel and was loud. Jules Verne predicted, in an 1863 novel, that Paris would eventually be filled with Lenoir horseless carriages. In 1860, Scientific American reported the Lenoir engine was the end of the steam age.
In 1867, German Nikolaus Otto introduced a vastly improved Lenoir engine that used a free piston.
Otto partnered with Gottlieb Daimler and released a four-stroke engine in 1876.
Karl Benz released a two-stroke engine in 1879.
Liquid fuel engines existed as far back as 1794 and the internal combustion engines all soon ran on fuel distilled form oil.
There are many people who claimed to innovate earlier ICE’s, including some that allegedly ran on oil. As with many important innovations the historic record ー due, probably, to patent disputes ー is not entirely clear.
Lenoir died in poverty in August 1900.