matchstick

What is that one thing which we use on a daily basis without which our lives wouldn’t be the same. While cooking, lighting candles, burning up the dried leaves, etc. We just cannot live without it. Yes, it’s the matchstick.

A match is a small stick of wood or strip of cardboard with a solidified mixture of flammable chemicals deposited on one end. When that end is struck on a rough surface, the friction generates enough heat to ignite the chemicals and produce a small flame. Some matches, called strike-anywhere matches, may be ignited by striking them on any rough surface. Other matches, called safety matches, will ignite only when they are struck on a special rough surface containing certain chemicals.

The First Matchstick, Created By John Walker, Was Sold In 1824!

The creator of matchsticks was surely a brilliant one. Being well informed in the field of chemicals, John Walker had the ability of inventing a tiny form of life saver for the whole world. The history of the matchstick dates back to the 19th century.

Walker was a chemist and a genius who came up with the idea of matches. Born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1781, Walker attended the local grammar school in the same city and went to be an apprentice to Watson Alcock, surgeon and doctor of the town. After finding out that he cannot be around blood and surgical operations, he could no longer serve Watson. Though the days he spent with Watson did not go in vain. Walker had learnt a lot about chemistry.

This motivated him to study that subject at Durham and York. In his late 30s, he had his own shop as “chemist and druggist”, Walker was an exceptional person who worked with natural ingredients and chemical substances which were not used much in human or animal medicines back then.

Evolution Of The Matchstick

While experimenting with chemicals he came across a paste that could combust into flames when scraped on a rough surface. He managed to test all the capabilities of sulphur and phosphor, but even before that time, various attempts were made to achieve easy creation of fire by other means.

The experiment was successful. So, Walker tried to make a prototype of matches with cardboard sticks. By 1824, he started selling those matchsticks. And by changing the design of the sticks into 3 inch long wooden splints he soon received many offers.

His design was not perfect, as the sulphur on the head of the stick sometimes burned so much that it managed to detach itself and fall on the floor, setting furniture on fire. Walker became famous after his death and is remembered as an ambitious inventor. It was Sir Issac Holden who took over the business and started selling his own matches across the world.

An invention so simple, yet marvellous became an important part of everybody’s life.

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