John Barber

John Barber

English inventor
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of John Barber
  2. Patents and Inventions
  3. Legacy
  4. Influence on Frank Whittle

Biography of John Barber

John Barber was an English inventor who lived from 1734 to 1801. He was born in Nottinghamshire and later moved to Warwickshire in the 1760s to manage coal mines near Nuneaton. He initially resided in Camp Hill House, located between Hartshill and Nuneaton, before eventually settling in Attleborough.

Patents and Inventions

From 1766 to 1792, Barber obtained several patents for his inventions, with the most significant and intriguing being the gas turbine. Although his patent did not bring practical benefits at the time, Barber was the first person to describe in detail the principles of the gas turbine. In the 20th century, a fully functioning model was constructed based on his descriptions and drawings.

In 1791, Barber received patent number 1833, which outlined the essential features of the gas turbine. He envisioned using his machine for horseless transportation, so it was equipped with a chain drive, a piston gas compressor, a combustion chamber, and a turbine. Barber's turbine burned gas derived from wood, coal, oil, or other energy sources heated in a retort or generator. The gas was then cooled in a receiver before being compressed in various cylinders and injected into the combustion chamber, where it ignited. The resulting mixture of hot gas propelled the blades of a propeller wheel. Water was introduced into the explosive mixture for cooling purposes, and the resulting steam increased the energy output.


Barber's concept was groundbreaking, but given the technological limitations of the time, it was impossible to create a device powerful enough for air and gas compression and extract practical benefits from the project. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that John Barber was the originator of the idea that led to the development of modern gas turbines.

In 1972, Kraftwerk-Union AG, a German company from Bonn, showcased a working model of Barber's turbine at the Hannover Fair, an industrial exhibition.

Influence on Frank Whittle

Another Englishman, Sir Frank Whittle, patented a gas turbine design for a jet engine. This engine was first successfully implemented in April 1937. Whittle's early work on gas engine theory was based on the contributions of pioneers in the field, including John Barber.