John Walker Invents Portable Fire

John Walker

On May 1, 1859, John Walker died. At the time, nobody really knew how he had contributed to the betterment of society. Yet, after death, everyone learned that he discovered how to create portable fire in what we call strike matches.

Born in 1781, John Walker started his career as an assistant surgeon. Quickly he discovered he could not handle the sight of blood. Still, the experience introduced him to chemistry. He went away to study and worked with some druggists or early pharmacists. Finally, at the age of 38, he returned home and opened up a pharmacy.

At his pharmacy, he created cures for man and beast. He also loved doing experiments. He experimented with substances that created fire. One day, at his hearth, he ended up scraping a stick dipped in sulfur and it burst into flame. John Walker had invented the match.

A year later, he packaged little sticks dipped in the sulfur and sold them. People loved them. Yet Walker refused to patent the item as he knew it was imperfect. He wanted someone else to perfect it. Only a little while after he started selling them, Samuel Jones saw them, repackaged them as Lucifers, and sold them. Walker continued his pharmacy until 1858 when he sold it. He died a year later. Even though he never patented the matches people remember him as the inventor of the match.

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