Paraffin oil, known as kerosene in Australia and the United States and stove oil in Canada, is an flammable liquid hydrocarbon burned as fuel. It is most commonly used to power jet engines for aircraft, but can also be used for heating, lighting, and cooking. It is refined from petroleum and is relatively cheap to produce.
Paraffin oil was first distilled by geologist Abraham Gesner in 1807 in New Brunswick, Canada, from a type of asphalt called Albertite. As the 19th century progressed, new sources were discovered, and its production became more commercialized and widespread. Gesner founded the Kerosene Gaslight Company in 1850, and the following year, Scottish chemist James Young began distilling paraffin oil from local Torbanite coal. In 1856, Polish chemist Ignacy Łukasiewicz discovered an even cheaper method of refining it. The low prices and availability of the new fuel led to the decline of the whaling industry throughout the latter half of the 19th century.
Before the advent of electric battery power, paraffin oil was the most common fuel for lamps and portable lanterns. It is still used to some extent for portable lamps and stoves, most often by campers or in developing countries. The Amish, who are religiously opposed to electrical power, heavily rely on paraffin oil to power their lamps and appliances. This oil is most often used in the modern world as fuel for jet planes and rockets.
Paraffin oil has also been used as an industrial solvent and lubricant. It can be used to store substances that may be damaged by or volatile in the presence of oxygen. Historically, it has been added to standing water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and applied to the head to kill lice, though these practices can be dangerous and have mostly fallen out of use. Paraffin oil is also used in some forms of entertainment, such as fire dancing and fire breathing, as it ignites at a relatively lower temperature than other fuels.