Lit match

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The first friction match was born from the alchemical experiments of Hennig Brandt in Hamburg in 1669, who was attempting to transform an olio of base metals into gold, and instead accidentally produced the element phosphorous. He ignored his discovery, but British physicist Robert Boyle in 1680 coated coarse paper in phosphorous, and a splinter of wood in sulphur. When the wood was drawn through the folded paper, it burst into flames. Due to the scarcity of phosphorous, this invention was little more than an expensive novelty for the rich.

In 1817 a French chemist created what he called “the Ethereal Match,” a piece of paper coated with a compound of phosphorous that ignited when exposed to air. The paper was vacuum-sealed in a glass tube called the “match,” which was ignited when the tube was smashed.

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