Janos Irinyi (1817-1895) was a Hungarian chemist and inventor of the noiseless and non-explosive match. He achieved this by mixing the phosphorus with lead dioxide instead of the potassium chlorate used previously.
Irinyi also took part in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.
Irinyi's Early Life
Irinyi was the son of an agronomist and estate agent, also named Janos, who set up Hungary’s first alcohol factory equipped with steam engines. He studied chemistry at the Vienna Polytechnikum and agriculture at the Agricultural Academy in Hohenheim. Irinyi is often called the inventor of the safety match, but this is only partially true, as many researchers contributed to its development. In 1805 Jean Chancel, a Frenchman, invented the “dip lighter,” and the Englishmen John Walker (1827) and Samuel Jones (1832) also have individual claims as pioneers of the friction match. Since the ignition materials in these primitive matches were potassium chlorate and antimony trisulfide, they ignited violently and explosively. The suggestion of adding white phosphorus was contributed by Istvan Romer, a Hungarian manufacturer, who in 1832 applied in Vienna for a patent for this process.
In 1835, Irinyi, while still a student, had the idea of substituting lead oxide for the potassium chlorate. He thereby obtained an explosionless, noiseless, and smoothly igniting match whose head consisted of white phosphorus, lead oxide, and sulfur. Irinyi sold his invention to Rómer, who thereafter manufactured the new type of match in Austria. Irinyi himself established a match factory in Buda (today Budapest), Hungary, but the volume of business did not meet his expectations. He soon fell into financial difficulties and had to give up the factory. This failure was probably caused in part by his many scientific and public activities.
Irinyi wrote several books and worked to create an artificial Hungarian technical language in which all chemical terms would be “Magyarized”; this language prevailed in scientific usage only for a very short time. Irinyi also participated in the revolutionary events of the year 1848, and during the Hungarian war of independence he was charged with the organization and supervision of the Hungarian manufacture of arms. Upon the defeat of the uprising he was imprisoned. Following his release he worked in various steam-powered corn mills and sugar factories. He spent the last years of his life in retirement in Vértes, cultivating a small plot of land he had inherited.