There's no shortage of misinformation floating around the Internet, much of it taking the form of enormous lists of incredible factoids that cite no sources and hardly stand up to even modest critical thinking. Duck quacks do of course echo, Tinkerbell predated Marilyn Monroe's superstardom and was based on modeling by actress Margaret Kerry, and God only knows how many people falling coconuts kill every year, but I'm sure the coconut tree would be extinct if it were actively slaughtering humans for sport.

Surely the match was invented before the lighter? It's so much simpler than even the mass-produced Bics in every smoker's pocket. Right? Right?

Disposable tools which could be called matches date back thousands of years, but when you think of the modern match, you probably mean a small bit of wood with a flammable head ignited by friction. If that's your definition, and it sounds reasonable to me, the lucifer match was invented in 1827.

The Döbereiner lighter was invented in 1823.

Now granted, the Döbereiner feuerzeug was no pocket Bic. It was not filled with butane, it didn't have a flint, and it was large, heavy, and expensive. But it absolutely fits the modern definition of a lighter. At the push of a lever, it released a flammable gas which ignited and produced a stream of flame for lighting candles or tobacco products. The flammable gas? Clean, carbon neutral hydrogen.

Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner (1780–1859) was a German chemist famous for early work on what would eventually become the Periodic Table of the Elements. He also worked with the precious metal platinum, which was known to have properties as a catalyst for chemical reactions. For example modern rocket belts work by spraying hydrogen peroxide over a platinum mesh. Döbereiner's work was slightly less spectacular but much more accessible to the public. In 1823 he discovered that a stream of hydrogen flowing over a platinum sponge would heat up and then ignite, producing flame, if it premixed with air for about 4 cm (1.5 inches) before it contacted the platinum.

Within days he had worked this discovery into a marvelous invention called Döbereiner's Lamp. It consisted of a bottle with no bottom inside of a larger jar, topped by a lever-operated stopcock with a nozzle pointed at the platinum sponge. The jar was filled with diluted sulfuric acid and there was a coiled ribbon of zinc hanging inside the bottle. A reaction between the zinc and the sulfuric acid produced hydrogen, which was funneled up the bottle to the stopcock.

Zn + H2SO4 → Zn2+ + SO42- + H2

In normal use, hydrogen would only be produced until it reached a small pressure inside the jar, which would stop the reaction, until the stopcock was opened, releasing the pressure, producing more hydrogen. The nozzle produced a jet of hydrogen aimed at the platinum, which would react (breaking the H-H bonds in the H2 gas), heat up, and ignite, producing a nearly colorless flame (as the hydrogen combined with oxygen in the presence of heat).

Döbereiner's Lamp was safe and convenient, and it became incredibly popular. By 1828 20,000 of these lighters were in use throughout Germany and England, replacing old methods of starting fire with flint and tinder, or another existing flame. He could have made a fortune, but he declined to patent the invention, saying that he loved science more than money. Instead, other people made fortunes selling his design, often dressing it up with brass or gold parts and other ornamentation to make it a conversation piece as well as a handy tool.

There were only two difficulties. First, if the lighter was out of use for too long, an explosive amount of hydrogen could accumulate in the jar. It was recommended to let it vent (while covering the platinum) before using it again after long periods of storage. Second, if the platinum was corrupted, it wouldn't catalyze the reaction with the hydrogen. This could be fixed by heating the platinum to red-hot and letting it cool again. This was easy to do by directing the jet of hydrogen at it, as normal, and igniting it with a candle.

Alas, only four years after his marvelous invention, the world was introduced to the lucifer match, the first really useful friction match. Inevitably, they were more popular. They were portable, and much cheaper, even if they did light violently, smell terrible, and have no safety features. Despite reduced popularity, the elegant design and beautiful craftsmanship of Döbereiner's Lamp kept it in use until the beginning of World War I. By that time, matches were popular enough to relocate Döbereiner's invention from the smoker's room to the museum.

Physical Technics; Or, Practical Instructions for Making Experiments by Joseph Frick (1862)

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