Lebon, Philippe

SUBJECT AREA: Public utilities
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b. 29 May 1767 Bruchey, near Joinville, France
d. 2 December 1804 Paris, France
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French pioneer of gas lighting.
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Lebon was the son of a court official under Louis XV. He entered the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées and graduated in 1792, by which time he had acquired a considerable reputation as a scientific engineer. He is credited with the invention of the firetube steam boiler and of the superheater, and he also devised an engine to work by gas, but from 1792 until his untimely death he worked mainly on his experiments to produce an inflammable gas for lighting purposes. He submitted a paper on the subject in 1799 to the Institut National and received a patent in the same year. The patent covers the detailed making and application of gas for light, heat and power, and the recovery of by-products. It describes the production of the gas by the carbonization of coal, although Lebon in feet used only wood gas for his experiments and demonstrations. He began demonstrations in a private house in Paris, but these attracted little attention. He achieved wider public interest when he moved to the Hôtel Seignelay, where he started a series of public demonstrations in 1801, but he attracted little profit, and in fact lost his money in his experiments. He then set up a plant near Rouen to manufacture wood tar, but his career was brought to an end by his brutal murder in the Champs Elysées in Paris. William Murdock was working along similar lines in England, although Lebon knew nothing of his experiments. The German entrepreneur F.A. Winsor visited Lebon and managed to discover the essentials of his processes, which he turned to good account in England with the founding of the Gas, Light \& Coke Company.
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Further Reading
S.T.McCloy, 1952, French Inventors of the Eighteenth Century.
A.Fayol, 1943, Philippe Lebon et le gaz d'éclair-age.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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