The carburetor was invented by the Hungarian engineer Donát Bánki in 1893. Frederick William Lanchester of Birmingham, England experimented early on with the wick carburetor in cars. In 1896 Frederick and his brother built the first petrol driven car in England, a single cylinder 5 hp (4 kW) internal combustion engine with chain drive. Unhappy with the performance and power, they re-built the engine the next year into a two cylinder horizontally opposed version using his new wick carburetor design. This version completed a 1,000 mile (1600 km) tour in 1900 successfully incorporating the carburetor as an important step forward in automotive engineering. The word carburetor comes from the French carbure, meaning ‘carbide’. George Kingston invented the Carburetor in 1902, known as the Kingston carburetor, in Kokomo, IN. The Kingston company also manufactured such things as Roller Skates and Radios. To carburete means to combine with carbon. In fuel chemistry, the term has the more specific meaning of increasing the carbon (and therefore energy) content of a fuel by mixing it with a volatile hydrocarbon.
Most carbureted (as opposed to fuel-injected) engines have a single carburetor, though some engines use multiple carburetors. Older engines used updraft carburetors, where the air enters from below the carburetor and exits through the top. This had the advantage of never “flooding” the engine, as any liquid fuel droplets would fall out of the carburetor instead of into the intake manifold; it also lent itself to use of an oil bath air cleaner, where a pool of oil below a mesh element below the carburetor is sucked up into the mesh and the air is drawn through the oil covered mesh; this was an effective system in a time when paper air filters did not exist. Beginning in the late 1930s, downdraft carburetors were the most popular type for automotive use in the United States. In Europe, the side draft carburetors replaced downdraft as free space in the engine bay decreased and the use of the SU-type carburetor (and similar units from other manufacturers) increased. Small propeller-driven flat aircraft engines still use the updraft carburetor design.
The carburetor works on Bernoulli’s principle: the fact that moving air has lower pressure than still air, and that the faster the movement of the air, the lower the pressure. The throttle or accelerator does not control the flow of liquid fuel. Instead, it controls the amount of air that flows through the carburetor. Faster flows of air and more air entering the carburetor draws more fuel into the carburetor due to the partial vacuum that is created.
Weber carburetors were originally produced in Italy by Edoardo Weber as part of a conversion kit for 1920s Fiats. Weber pioneered the use of twin barrel carburetors with two barrels (or Venturi) of different sizes, the smaller one for low speed running and the larger one optimized for high speed use. In the 1930s Weber began producing twin barrel carburetors for motor racing where two barrels of the same size were used. These were arranged so that each cylinder of the engine has its own carburetor barrel. These carburetors found use in Maserati and Alfa Romeo racing cars. In time, Weber carburetors were fitted to standard production cars and factory racing applications on automotive marques such as Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Fiat, Ford, Lamborghini, Lancia, Lotus, Maserati, Porsche, and Triumph. In modern times, fuel injection has replaced carburetors in both production cars and motor racing. Weber fuel system components are distributed by Magneti-Marelli’s After Market Products and Services.
(Image from Precise Engine Repair, Bruce Perrault) and (Image from http://www.racepages.com)
Some great references can also be found in the Books Reference page.