Smashwords Edition Copyright 2011 Janet Roberts
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The history of oil production in Britain goes back to 1847. Up until that time whale oil, predominately from the sperm whale, had been used for illumination, as it gave a bright light with little smell or smoke. However, it was expensive and only the fairly wealthy could afford to buy it regularly.
Then in 1847 Professor Lyon Playfair, a chemist to the Geological Survey, and later Professor in the new School of Mines, came to visit his brother-in-law James Oakes in Riddings near Alfreton, Derbyshire. Oakes owned a coal pit, and had noticed a black oily substance oozing out of the walls of the mine. Playfair immediately sent a sample to his old friend James Young, who in his first scientific paper, dated the 4th January, 1837 had described a modification of a voltaic battery invented by Michael Faraday. Playfair included with the sample an explanatory note