Jet propulsion had its beginnings in the turbo superchargers devised by Dr. Sanford Moss in 1918. These were used to improve the performance of reciprocating engines at high altitudes.
Frank Whittle received the patent in 1930 for a jet engine. Hans von Ohain received the German patent in 1935. The first jet aircraft was the Heinkel He 178 flown in 1939 with a von Ohain engine producing 4.9kN of thrust.
The first American jet was the Bell P-59 Airacomet flown in 1942.
The first combat jet was the Gloster Meteor which entered service with 616 Squadron Royal Air Force in May 1944. They were initially deployed against V1 flying bombs and specifically prohibed from flying over Germany. The germans also had a jet fighter in operational service before the end of the war the Messerschmitt Me 262. A large number of these were built toward the end of the war but supply of engines was so limited that less than 30 were in service at any one time.
The first American civil jet engine was the General Electric J47 certified in 1949. The first civil jet aircraft was the De Havilland Comet flown in 1949. Three of the nine initially built exploded because of fatigue problems in the pressurised fuselage.
The first high bypass turbofan was the General Electric TF39 used on the Lockheed C-5A which first flew in 1968 and paved the way for the engines used in the 747 and other widebody aircraft in use today.