At the beginning of the 20th century, kerosene lamp was a very common item in each and every household. Nowadays this fuel is still used in jet engines. But did you know that kerosene was actually invented in Lviv?
In the middle of the 19th century Lviv region, which was called Galicia at that times, was a well known in Europe oil-producing region. Oil was very cheap because there was plenty of it unlike alcohol, which was rather expensive and highly demanded substance. That is why the owner of «Under the Gold Star» Lviv pharmacy, located on Kopernyka street (the original interiors of this pharmacy can still be witnessed by all interested, however, the pharmacy is now turned into a fancy coffee shop) decided to distill alcohol out of oil. In 1853 he delegated this task to his two employees, Jan Zech and Ignacy Lukasiewicz.
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Photo: the interior of the «Under the Gold Star» pharmacy, Kopernyka str.
Pharmacist duo has failed with alcohol, however they have concocted another substance, which proved to be very handy at that times. Kerosene burnt well and had a bearable odor. That same year the pharmacists patented their invention in Vienna.
Zech and Lukasiewicz asked a local tinsmith to make a lamp with a kerosene tank. They have later put their invention in the pharmacy window. The fame didn’t come at once. Common people weren’t that much interested in this new invention, however it’s the doctors who first found a good use of it. In Lviv city hospital they performed emergency surgeries at nights by the light of the kerosene lamps, which gave much brighter light than candles. Later it turned out that kerosene was not only effective but also hygienic.
Both pharmacists started their own kerosene business. Sadly, kerosene turned to be not only life’s success for Jan Zech’s, but also his curse. Shortly after opening his own store where he was selling kerosene, the spilled fuel accidentally ignited and led to the tragic death of Zech’s wife and sister who worked in the store. Ignacy Lukasiewicz moved to Poland, where he built an oil refinery and run a successful business.
"Gasova Lampa" (kerosene lamp in Ukrainian) is a very popular among tourists cafe in Lviv located on Virmens'ka street. It is dedicated to the invention of kerosene lamp in Lviv. The bronze statues by the building were created specially to honour both inventors of this device, Jan Zech and Ignacy Lukasiewicz. Here guests can enjoy delicious Galician cuisine, freshly brewed Lviv coffee and discover many interesting facts and legends concerning this invention, also examine dozens of various models of kerosene lamps.
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