The National Bank of Hungary will issue (18th May) a new coin in the very popular and ongoing collector series “Inventions and Technical Innovations of Hungarian Engineers and Inventors.” The series features the people and inventions that have made a significant technical or scientific contribution to popular culture and modern life. The latest coin highlights both the inventor János Irinyi (1817–1895) and the outstanding contribution he is credited as having invented and patented—the noiseless and non-explosive match. The coin also marks the 200th anniversary of the year of his birth.
The square-shaped coin is produced by the Mint of Hungary with facilities in Budapest and the designer is Zoltán Endrődy. The obverse cleverly depicts the striking strip on the side of a box of matches, with a match lighting up in flame. The denomination of 2000 FORINT is displayed in two lines above and below the matchstick, with the text MAGYARORSZAG at the top of the coin.
The reverse includes a facsimile of a portrait taken from a well-known photograph of Irinyi. The text IRINYI JÁNOS is placed above the portrait and the years 1817–1895 is seen in vertical position to the left of the portrait. The inscription text THE PATENTOR OF THE NOISELESS MATCH WAS BORN 200 YEARS AGO (in Hungarian) is repeated in micro-script to form the fabric of his jacket in the portrait.
|2,000 forint||Cupro-nickel||14 g||28.43 x 28.43 mm||Uncirculated||4,000|
|2,000 forint||Cupro-nickel||14 g||28.43 x 28.43 mm||Proof||6,000|
A unique feature of the Proof coin is that the flame from the match has a rainbow effect achieved by working the surface with a laser. When the coin is moved in natural light, the surface of the flame reflects the colours of the rainbow. The flame in the Brilliant Uncirculated version has a plastic-coated element and is available at its face value. Please visit the website of the Mint of Hungary for additional information on this and other coins issued by the National Bank of Hungary.
Irinyi’s Moment of “Eureka!”
János Irinyi was born in 1817 in Transylvania, in the town of Albis in Bihar county (present-day Romania), as the son of the landholder János Irinyi and Roxanda Janovits (Róza Jánossy). He studied in Debrecen, the second-largest city in Hungary after Budapest, as well as studying chemistry at the Polytechnical School in Vienna. In relation to one of his professors’ unsuccessful experiments, he developed an idea for a noiseless match, which, after a long series of experiments, he patented.
It was in 1836 and at the age of just 19 that he invented the phosphorous match with noise-free ignition, in connection with an experiment made by his professor, Pál Meissner, who was of Transylvanian origin. During a presentation, Irinyi recalled, the professor rubbed sulphur and lead dioxide together…
while promising to the students that the sulphur would ignite; however, this did not happen; it suddenly came to my mind that if phosphor had been used instead of sulphur, it would have been in flames for some time.
It was this sudden idea that gave birth to the noise-free match. Irinyi eliminated the potassium chlorate that caused the explosion-like ignition in the mixture and instead mixed phosphor with lead dioxide. He sold his invention to match manufacturer István Rómer, and with the proceeds from his invention, he went abroad as a student, later completing his studies at the University of Berlin and the economics Institute of Hoffenheim. In Berlin, he wrote a book on theoretical chemistry in 1838 at the age of 21, focusing in particular on acids while also studying the amelioration of alkali soils.
Irinyi was the first to recommend ameliorating Hungarian alkali soils with plaster and at the same time he also founded the first Hungarian match factory (lighting match factory) in 1839 in Pest. Irinyi was one of the most talented Hungarian chemists, developing a perfect command of the new science of chemistry being established in the spirit of Lavoisier. As well as having the reputation for being an incredibly talented chemist at a very young age, he played a significant political role in Hungary’s War of Independence of 1848–1849. It was Lajos Kossuth (1802–1894), then–governor-president of the Kingdom of Hungary, who appointed Irinyi in charge of manufacturing canon and gunpowder, and overseeing state-run factories. With the rank of major, and as the head of the gunpowder factory in Nagyvárad (present-day Oradea), he was sentenced to prison after the war was lost. With his release from prison, Irinyi withdrew from political life altogether and focused wholly on science. Aside from his patent of the modern match and for his further activities with matches, he is remembered as one of the leading disseminators of what is regarded as the new chemistry and played a key role in the development of chemical terminology, translating this vital information into Hungarian. As a strongly patriotic Hungarian nobleman who had taken part in revolutionary movements, his name is also associated with the famous 12 Points—a list of demands written by the leaders of the Hungarian Revolution. He died in Vértes, in northwestern Hungary, on the 17th December 1895. ❑