János Irinyi was one of the most talented Hungarian chemists. He developed a perfect command of the then-new science of chemistry. He was also an inventor.
After studying one of his professor’s unsuccessful experiments, he developed an idea for a noiseless match. After a long series of experiments, he patented his idea in 1836: the head of the match did not contain phosphorus with potassium chlorate, but rather lead dioxide. He sold his invention to match manufacturer István Rómer and used the money to go abroad for study, later completing his studies at the university of Berlin and the Economics Institute of Hoffenheim. In Berlin, in 1838 at the age of 21, he wrote a book on theoretical chemistry, focusing in particular on acids. He also studied the amelioration of alkali soils. Irinyi was the first to recommend suplementing Hungarian alkali soils with plaster to improve soil quality. He also founded the first Hungarian match factory in 1839 in Pest.
He was born in 1817 in Transylvania, then part of Hungary, and studied in Debrecen and at the Polytechnical School in Vienna. Later he was a strongly patriotic Hungarian nobleman who took part in revolutionary movements. He played a significant political role in the War of Independence of 1848–1849 when Lajos Kossuth put him in charge of manufacturing cannon and gunpowder, and overseeing state-run factories. He was the head of the gunpowder factory in Nagyvárad (present-day Oradea). He was sentenced to prison after the war was lost. After being freed, he withdrew from political life and focused on science. He died on December 17, 1895.
Although today he is known for his activities with matches, during his time he was one of the leading proponents of the new chemistry and played a key role in the development of chemical terminology in Hungarian.
In recognition of the bicentennial of his birth, the Magyar Nemzeti Bank is issuing a square 2,000-forint copper-nickel 28.43 millimeter (1.12”), 14 gram coin, in proof (6,000 pieces) and BU (4,000 pieces) versions.The front of the coin depicts the striking strip on the side of a box of matches, with a match lighting up in flame. The back bears a portrait of János Irinyi. The legend “THE PATENTOR OF THE NOISELESS MATCH WAS BORN 200 YEARS AGO” is repeated in microscript to form the structure of his clothes in the portrait.
The flame in the BU version is a plastic element.