Döbereiner's Lamp - Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner and History of the First Lighter
History of lighters started in 1823 when one German chemist and engineer managed to combine simple flint mechanism with the storage compartment that housed
flammable chemicals and create Döbereiner's lamp. This early example of ingenuity sparked the imagination of countless inventors who took this design of
Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner and improved it in countless ways, eventually managing to create lighter that we know today – small, reliable, cheap, disposable
and manufactured all around the world in large quantities.
Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner was born on December 13 1780 in Hof, Bayreuth, as a son of Johann Adam Döbereiner (farm worker who eventually become estate
manager) and Johanna Susanna Göring. He was primarily self-thought with the help of his mother, but in 1794 he started his apprenticeship at the local
apothecary named Lutz. He spent three years there, before he made his journeyman’s travels through Germany for five years. After returning home he married
Clara Knab and started his small business of manufacturing various chemicals, pigments and drugs. During that time he started publishing articles on these
chemicals, where he first editor Adolph Ferdinand Gehlen. As years went on, Döbereiner’s business thrived, but only until the start of the Napoleonic wars.
In 1810, Döbereiner used his connection with Gehlen, and found himself a job as an associate professor of chemistry and pharmacy in the University of Jena.
There he finished his doctorate, and worked on many scientific experiments – most notably early work that would lead scientist into forming the modern
periodic table of elements.
His contribution to the history of lighters happened during 1823 when he took the designs of the scientist e Fürstenberger and created much more reliable
and easy to use device. His “Döbereiner's lamp” was a jar which housed reaction of zinc metal and sulfuric acid, which produced flammable hydrogen gas.
When the valve on the top of the container was opened, jet of hydrogen gas was released and catalyzed by platinum metal. This design remained in use until
1880s when the newer and smaller designs started appearing all around the world.
Döbereiner never patented this discovery, and therefore did not receive much money for it. He estimated that during his lifetime over 20 thousand
“Döbereiner's lamp” were created all around the Europe. He died on 24 March 1849 in Jena, Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.