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Who invented the lava lamp?

Hello, random Doodle day! I've been doing a lot of "this day in history" posts, but I was ready to do a random one. Today's doodle topic came from my favorite 5 year old (she poses many questions that turn into doodles), and it is the LAVA LAMP!


The lava lamp started with an accountant, Craven Walker, sitting in a Dorset pub in 1950 watching an egg timer patented by Donald Dunnet. Yup, an egg timer. It was made from a cocktail shaker filled with alien-looking liquids bubbling on a stove top. Now granted, he wasn't just an accountant, Craven Walker was a British inventor, entrepreneur and eccentric. Aside from inventing the lava lamp and various other patented inventions he also made underwater naturist films, owned helicopters and fire engines, was a World War Two pilot, entertained the cast of the 1960s musical Hair and owned a naturist camp in Dorset.


In the early 1960s, Craven Walker led a team to develop the lava lamp. Taking over a decade to develop the formulation and design, a number of patents were registered in the UK and abroad by the company building on Dunnet's invention. Craven Walker’s lamp paired two mutually insoluble liquids: one water-based, the other wax-based. The exact recipe is a proprietary secret, but a key ingredient is the solvent carbon tetrachloride, which adds weight to the otherwise buoyant wax. The heat source at the bottom of the lamp liquefies the waxy blob. As it expands, its density decreases and it rises to the top—where it cools, congeals and begins to sink back down.


The Astro came to market in 1963 and was an instant hit. The lamp became one of the defining products of the swinging ‘60s appearing in cult TV series ''The Prisoner" and "Dr Who".  By the end of the decade, Craven Walker’s company was manufacturing millions of “Astro Lamps,” as he called them, per year. In 1965, he sold the U.S. manufacturing rights to a company called Lava Lite. Craven Walker and his wife Christine ran the UK business very successfully throughout the 1960s and ‘70s.

When the Craven Walkers wanted to retire and teamed up with young entrepreneurs Cressida Granger and David Mulley in 1989 who launched the lava lamp to a new generation. Part of the relaunch included changing the company name from Crestworth to Mathmos in 1992. The word Mathmos is taken from the cult 1960s film Barbarella


Millions of lava lamps have been manufactured in Dorset and sold throughout the world gaining a host of business and marketing awards including two Queens Awards for Export. Still based in Poole, Dorset the lamps have been in continuous production since their invention in 1963. 


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