Of all the inventions of the 19th century, engines powered by steam or by oil were by far the most important.
Steam and internal combustion engines were the result of the application of scientific discoveries made during and after the first and second industrial revolutions. Using these engines not only in factories and industrial complexes but also in all modes of transport by air, land and sea revolutionised society. The introduction of steamships reinforced the maritime supremacy of the British Empire. British steamships spread across the Mediterranean and across the British possessions on the route to India after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Countries and empires built steamships or acquired them to keep up to date with the new, fast means of communication and trade.