Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A matchless matchmaker no-one knows

Here’s a forgotten hero whose invention helped (and probably hindered) almost everybody in the world and yet he’s not just forgotten, it's very unlikely you’ve ever heard of him.
Let’s try it. What’s John Walker famous for, even if he's not at all famous?
Most might suggest booze, a famous name for a brand of Scotch, but that’s not this John Walker, sorry.
Our inventor was a chemist, who by accident in 1829 created the match, the self-same that we often use to light the gas, the bonfire in the garden, and for sinners who smoke cigarettes.
In my early years, as a madly keen boy scout, I derived the greatest satisfaction from boiling a billy, as it was termed then, over an open fire.
To be a successful scout, the fire had to be lit with no more than two matches.
Wikipedia tells us that the discovery of a match that offers a flame actually happened by accident when a piece of wood that John Walker had dipped in a lighting chemical caught fire by friction accidentally. 
Continues on the blogs for my ocean adventuring book, Sailing to Purgatory, at 


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