He never talked about his revolutionary activities; he avoided journalists, he only let his photo taken once – making it possible for us to know what his face looked like. It is János Irinyi, the inventor of the non-explosive and noiseless match.
János Irinyi was a Hungarian inventor and chemist, born on the 17th of May in 1817 in Albis, Erdély. Many people believe he was the inventor of the match. It is not true, but he did invent the non-explosive, noiseless match, indeed.
Irinyi came from a Calvinist noble family. His father, János Irinyi was an agronomist. He studied in Debrecen, Hungary, but he received most is his education regarding chemistry in the Politechnikum in Vienna. Pál Meisser, one of Irinyi’s teacher, conducted an unsuccessful experience,
which made János Irinyi think, and eventually find out the solution for the noiseless and non-explosive match.
Having researched for a long time, he took out a patent for the noiseless and non-explosive match in 1836. He achieved the final result by mixing the phosphorus with lead dioxide instead of the potassium chlorate used previously.
Irinyi needed money for his studies abroad, so he decided to sell his invention. Eventually, he acquainted himself with a match manufacturer, called István Rómen, who was also one of the pioneers of general and special chemistry in Hungary. Despite the age difference, they became close friends. Irinyi even assumed to teach Rómer’s daughter Hungarian.
The actual price Rómer paid for Irinyi’s patent has not been recorded.
Some sources mention 60 forints, some know about 80, but the memoir of one of Irinyi’s fellow university students states 7000 forints.
The case was somewhat controversial since Rómer became wealthy from this purchase later on. At the same time, Irinyi must not have come off badly, since he was able to finance his studies at the University of Berlin and in the Agricultural Academy of Hohenheim.
In 1838 in Berlin he wrote a book on chemistry theory focussing especially on acids. He was the first one suggesting repairing Hungarian saline-sodic soils with gypsum. He was also the founder of the first Hungarian match factory in 1939.
He played a remarkable political role in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.
Lajos Kossuth entrusted him with the controlling of the production of gunpowder and gun-founding. He was a major in the gunpowder factory of Nagyvárad. After the fall of the Revolution, he was imprisoned.
When he was released from prison, he refrained from the political stage and lived for his scientific work. In the common knowledge, only his work related to the match is known, but we must not forget that he was one of the first Hungarians to spread the new approach to chemistry and he had an essential role in shaping the technical language of chemistry.
As the legend states, he formulated and sent to Pest the famous 12 points, a list of demands written by the leaders of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.
He went bankrupt because of his agricultural experiments. He had to take a job as an accountant.
He died on the 17th of December in 1895 in Vértes. Many secondary schools in Hungary bear his name.
Featured Image: Wikicommons by Przykuta