Who was the first to invent friction matches?
John Walker (29 May 1781 – 1 May 1859) was an English inventor who invented the friction match.
Walker was born in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, on 1781. He went to the local grammar school and was afterwards apprenticed to Watson Alcock, the principal surgeon of the town serving him as an assistant. He had, however, an aversion to surgical operations, and had to leave the profession, turning instead to chemistry. After studying at Durham and York, he set up a small business as a chemist and druggist at 59 High Street, Stockton, around 1818.
He developed an interest in trying to find a means of obtaining fire easily. Several chemical mixtures were already known which would ignite by a sudden explosion, but it had not been found possible to transmit the flame to a slow-burning substance like wood. 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.
The price of a box of 50 matches was one shilling. With each box was supplied a piece of sandpaper, folded double, through which the match had to be drawn to ignite it.