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William Bickford

He invented the safety fuse for igniting gunpowder. Cornish mines did not suffer from explosive gasses, but there were many miners killed by misuse of gunpowder. Early fuses were often tubes of reeds filled with powder and were extremely unreliable. Either they exploded too early not giving miners time to get away, or took too long to ignite and killed miners who assumed the fuse had gone out. William Bickford was a leather merchant in Illogan.

 

One day watching a rope maker spinning his threads, he realized that a strand of yarn, impregnated with gunpowder could be included in the rope to make a reliable, predictable fuse. In 1831 he took out a patent on his "safety rods" and manufactured them in a factory at Tucking Mill near Camborne. It took some time to get miners to use these safer fuses, as the older, unpredictable ones were cheaper. Eventually common sense prevailed and the mining industry moved over to the safety fuses.

  

       

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