Let There Be Light! - The Match struck first in Stockton
In 1826, John Walker, a chemist from Stockton, County Durham, finally solved the age-old problem of producing reliable and safe fire starters. Several chemical mixtures were already known which would ignite by a sudden explosion, but there was an obvious need for something a bit less tempestuous.
While Walker was preparing a lighting mixture on one occasion, a match which had been dipped in it took fire by an accidental friction upon the hearth. He at once appreciated the practical value of the discovery, and started making friction matches. They consisted of wooden splints or sticks of cardboard coated with sulphur and tipped with a mixture of sulphide of antimony, chlorate of potash, and gum, the sulphur serving to communicate the flame to the wood.
Already comfortably well off, he refused to patent his invention, despite being encouraged to by fellow inventor Michael Faraday (of electromagnetic fame) and others, making it freely available for anyone to make.
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