By Staff
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‘Internal Fire,’ by Lyle Cummins, is a comprehensive
study of the history of the internal-combustion engine. The
chronicle takes us from efforts in the 1600’s to use gun powder
as a fuel to the development of the Diesel engine at the end of the
19th century.

The book is well-researched and certainly technical enough to
please engineers and engine experts. It contains 126 text drawings
and 98 plate photographs.

The author sets engine and fuel research on a large historical
stage. He tells how the times and specific events affected the
thoughts and lives of inventors and builders and how they, in turn
influenced their own times and changed the course of events.

The phrase ‘Internal Fire’ is used to symbolize not only
the release of a fuel’s energy in an internal combustion engine
but also the energy in the creative minds of men who conceived and
built these engines.

Cummins stresses the truth that ‘an engine and the fuel it
consumes are inseparable partners.’ He points out that just as
inventors of the past adapted new fuels to engine use, so must we
of today accept the fact that a shortage of liquid fuel is
imminent, and act accordingly. The power plants we design today
should take into account the energy sources of tomorrow.

‘Internal Fire’ tells of inventions, business successes
and failures, patent fights, personal triumphs and failures. It
tells of the interrelation ship of men and events. It shows the
effect of the creative mind and the creative use of money in
molding events and shaping the lives of millions.

Although many men have been involved in the development of the
internal-combustion engine, several are outstanding. These

Nicholas Leonard Sadi Carnot (1796-1832) who gave ‘form and
substance’ to a new science in one short treatise; John Joseph
Etienne Lenoir (1822-1900), designer of the first
internal-combustion engine; Nicholas Otto (1832-1891), who
developed a practical internal-combustion engine which combined
mixture compression and combustion expansion in the same cylinder,
and George Bailey Brayton (1839-1892), who designed America’s
first commercial gas engine and the first practical oil burning

The Rev. Robert Stirling in 1816 patented a heat regenerator and
air engine which, the author claims, is one of the most amazing
inventions in heat-power history and which may yet offer us a
reliable alternative in the energy-environment dilemma.

Lyle Cummins has written a very complete history of the
internal-combustion engine. Those interested in the development of
the engine are given detailed, technical accounts. For the general
reader, Cummins offers a lot to think about. Politics, industry,
transportation, modes of life are all bound together for good or
ill. Environment helps kindle the ‘Internal Fire’ in the
minds of creative persons whose creations, in turn, shape the

Cummins is optimistic about that future if we learn from the
lessons of the past.

The author has lived with engines all his life. His father, the
late Clessie L. Cummins, to whose memory the book is dedicated,
founded the diesel engine company bearing his name.

Lyle Cummins is a graduate mechanical engineer residing in a
suburb of Portland, Oregon, with five patents to his credit. He has
broad experience, giving him unusual perspective on engine history.
He is active in programs relating to the improvement of engineering

‘Internal Fire’ can be obtained from Steam gas
Publishing Company, Box 328, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17604. Cost is
$18.95 plus 50 ?  for postage and handling.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines