A Canadian March 2000 stamp featured kerosene’s inventor.
Canadian physician and chemist Abraham Gesner patented a process to distill coal into kerosene. “I have invented and discovered a new and useful manufacture or composition of matter, being a new liquid hydrocarbon, which I denominate Kerosene,” he proclaimed. Because his new illuminating fluid was extracted from coal, consumers called it “coal oil” as often as kerosene.
The U.S. petroleum exploration industry was launched when it was learned that kerosene also could be distilled from crude oil. With new oilfields discovered in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, inexpensive kerosene became America’s main source of light until the electric light bulb arrived.
Gesner, today considered the father of Canada’s petroleum industry, established the country’s first Museum of Natural History in 1842. The New Brunswick Museum today houses one of Canada’s oldest geological collections, according to the Petroleum History Society.
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