match, small stick whose chemically coated tip bursts into flame when struck on a rough surface. Before the introduction of the match, fire was made by friction methods using the stick and the groove, the fire drill, or flint, tinder, and steel, or by employing a magnifying glass. Attempts in the 18th cent. to cause ignition by the use of chemicals resulted in a friction match devised in 1827 by an Englishman, the apothecary John Walker, and in a phosphorus match invented in France in 1831 by the French student Charles Sauria. In the United States a practical phosphorus match was patented in 1836. The safe, cheap modern match was made possible by mechanized large-scale manufacture and by the use of nontoxic chemicals, notably the sesquisulfide of phosphorus. In the safety match, invented in Sweden in 1855, an oxidizing agent on the match tip is ignited only when struck on a combustible material affixed to the matchbox.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.