John Walker, British pharmacist

John Walker, British pharmacist


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John Walker (1781-1859), British pharmacist. Walker set up business as a pharmacist in Stockton-on-Tees in 1819. At the time, the only way to strike a match was with a tinderbox. After setting up a laboratory at the back of his shop, Walker became one of the many scientists searching for an alternative match. He discovered that a mix of antimony sulphide and potassium chlorate would light when rubbed against sandpaper. He tipped small splints of wood with this mixture and began selling them as 'friction matches'. However, he never patented his invention and as its popularity grew, other people copied the invention.

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