When the temperature reached 300 degrees, the kerosene could be separated. The result was a substance that burns for a long time, glowing with a bright and clean flame. This process, invented 170 years ago in Lviv, is now used on a large scale in more than 820 refineries around the world.
It should be noted that the first developer of the distillation method was the Canadian Abraham Gesner, but he obtained the product from coal. The first distillation from oil in the United States was carried out in 1855 by Yale scientist Benjamin Silliman - two years after the development of Łukasiewicz's method. The Polish inventor is overlooked in many English-language accounts of the history of the oil industry, and for good reason - because he did not publish his discovery. Nor was he interested in obtaining a patent for the kerosene lamp itself. When he developed a suitable device with tinsmith Adam Bratkowski, he did not register the invention.
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The invention of the kerosene lamp was not as simple as it seems today. The kerosene in a conventional oil lamp could explode, and there was a risk of fire. The new lamp needed a different design, a different fuel tank, an air supply, an openwork burner, and a special chimney. Most important, however, was a suitable wick to ensure even combustion. Unfortunately, none of the first lamps made in Lviv at that time has survived to this day, and the history of Bratkowski's business did not go well - soon mass production was dominated by the Vienna factory of Karl Rudolf Dittmar.
News of the Lviv invention spread quickly throughout Austria-Hungary. The first advertisement for the new lighting was the pharmacy itself, which displayed something unusual for the time: a shop window lit after dark. Soon the pharmacy owner Peter Mikolasch, who came from Moravia, was approached by the authorities of the Lviv hospital because for them the solution was invaluable: thanks to the night lighting, they could operate on patients without having to wait for the sun to rise. On July 31, 1853, in Lviv, the surgeon Dr. Zaorski (whose name is not mentioned in the sources) operated on the appendix of his patient Wladyslaw Cholecki using kerosene lamps. It was the first such operation in the world.
The apothecaries were incredibly successful, but only Łukasiewicz had enough business sense to know that the next step should not be a cottage industry or selling lamps. His primary goal became oil extraction, and his next goal was to create an oil basin that was soon the largest in Europe.
The first oil mine in the world was established in Bóbrka near Krosno. In the following years, more and more wells were drilled in Galicia, and in 1856 the first industrial oil distillation plant was built in Ulaszowice near Jaslo. The extraction of this raw material by Łukasiewicz's company amounted to about 5 tons per day. Soon the inventor began to present at economic exhibitions not only kerosene, but also other products derived from petroleum: heavy oil, lubricating oil or asphalt. And as early as 1858, the management of the Austrian Northern Railway decided to introduce kerosene lighting at stations and on trains.
The achievements of Łukasiewicz and his Krosno partners were ahead of the black gold rush that was to break out in the United States. The exploitation of the deposits in Pennsylvania completely changed the economic history of the world, for soon oil was to serve not only as a source of light, but also as fuel for automobiles. Great fortunes were made overseas, including that of John Davison Rockefeller, who bought his first refinery in Cleveland in 1865 at the age of just 26.
An American delegation of oilmen from his company later arrived in Krosno. Some claim that Rockefeller himself, who later became the richest man in the world, was among the guests. However, there is no confirmation of this visit in any of the biographies of the American tycoon. Polish researchers studying the history of Ignacy Łukasiewicz, however, have repeatedly described the event, claiming that the Polish oil king allowed his guests to see everything, make sketches of facilities, and refused to take any money for it.