“I would rather that my spark should bum out in a brilliant-blaze than it be stifled by dry-rot.”
Attributed to Jack London
Spark ignition may be regarded as the process by which a farmer uses a cattle prod to put his herd in motion. It is also the process that enables an internal combustion engine to run on gasoline.
Spark ignition works by passing an electric current through a carefully wired system and into a spark plug, which does what the first part of its name suggests by igniting the mixture of air and fuel in the chamber of the engine. In 1890 Karl Benz (1844-1929) sparked a new age of civilized society with the invention of spark ignition. This development in the automobile world—a world in which Benz was already famous for having invented the motorcar—made the gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine possible. Credit is also given to Oliver Joseph Lodge, who made a major contribution to electric spark ignition for the internal combustion engine and whose sons, early in the twentieth century developed his ideas and formed the Lodge Plug Company, which sold spark plugs. However, it was only Gottlob Honold's later 1902 invention of the first commercially viable high-voltage spark plug as part of a magneto-based ignition system that made possible the development of the internal combustion engine.
The ability to improve the reliability of engines has made possible much of the mechanical technology that we associate with modern society.