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Abstract

The manufactured gas industry was one of the great technological innovations of the industrial revolution. Whilst it was developed in Great Britain, this was not in isolation, and required the input of many European engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs for its success. Although the innovation of making inflammable gas for lighting may now seem quite simple, it brought considerable change to society. Initially, gas was used for lighting, replacing candles and oil lamps, greatly improving safety within factories by reducing the occurrence of fires. The concerns over street crime and the potential benefits of brighter gas street lights were key factors in its wider uptake. Lighting was its primary use for the first 70 years. As competition emerged from electricity, the gas industry found new markets in heat and power. Gas manufacturing also produced a range of by-products which were later found to have some very useful properties and became important feedstocks to the chemical industry. Manufactured gas was the first integrated utility energy network and its success in Britain led to a rapid spread across Europe. Since its demise and replacement by natural gas, it has left a shared but unique legacy in each country.

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