Lava lamp

The man who turned a strange egg timer into an 'LSD lamp'

Edward Craven Walker (Singapore, July 4, 1918 – Ringwood, Hampshire, August 15, 2000)

"The lava lamp," its inventor once said, "has a cycle like that of life itself: it grows, wears out, decays, disappears and then starts all over again." Edward Craven Walker himself lived to be 82 years old, so he was able to experience it all: he brought the strange lamp onto the market in 1963, it faded away in the 1970s, and at a certain point in the 1980s it had completely disappeared.

She was there again at the end of the nineties.

Walker wasn't really an inventor, at least not the kind of inventor who spends his life tinkering with anything and everything. Rather, he was an adventurer who had a keen eye for ways to make easy money.

Walker was born in 1918 to British parents in the crown colony of Singapore. When the Second World War broke out, he was 22 and had to do military service in his native Great Britain.

He ended up in the Royal Air Force and carried out photo reconnaissance flights with a Mosquito aircraft throughout the war.

After the capitulation of the Third Reich he found a job as a travel agent; Among other things, he set up a home exchange agency called 'En Famille'. "That was enjoyable," Walker said, "and it promoted international friendship." On holiday in the south of France he discovered the existence of naturist camps.

It was difficult to advertise those camps in Britain in the 1950s. Walker came up with the idea of using so-called documentary films as a promotional tool. His first print had the beautiful title Eva's on skiing, but it did not pass the censorship and flopped.

Things went better with Traveling Light, which focuses on a naked woman who is artistically swimming off the Corsican coast to the right music. It was the first naturist film to pass strict British censorship.

He performed in the West End for eight months to conquer the world.

Walker couldn't help it: "I just wanted to promote naturism," he said, "and now I'm filthy rich too." With the big money he bought a club on the beaches of Bournemouth in southern England and there he founded the first naturist club in Great Britain. “A naturist,” says Walker, “must promote mental and physical health.

Fat people (fat fogies) demonstrate that they don't care about that, they don't come into my club.' This caused riots and made the news.

silver lava lampThe large amount of money also gave him the time and resources to work on an old idea that he had been working on for more than ten years. As a budding travel agent, he one day stopped with his trailer at the Queen's Head Pub in Burley, Hampshire.

On the counter was a glass cocktail shaker that did what a lava lamp does today. A quantity of paraffin lay beneath a liquid at the bottom of the shaker; By heating with a lamp, the paraffin melted and rose to the top, where it cooled and then sank back down.

The thing was neither a shaker nor a lamp. It was an egg timer, a clock that allowed you to determine exactly when an egg had reached the right degree of soft-boiledness.

Walker became fascinated by the unintended light effect. He went looking for its inventor, but he turned out to be deceased. According to some sources, the man had not patented his invention, according to others, Walker gave the widow a sum of money.

In any case, by 1963 the wealthy and well-known naturist Edward Walker brought his multi-colored kitsch lamp onto the market.

Coincidentally, all kinds of psychedelic substances came into fashion at that time. The flower power generation recognized the effect that LSD had on the mind in the effects of the lamp. Pop groups such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones began to incorporate the use of psychedelics into their music.

And Walker grew into a real hero. It was as if he came up with his lamp during an LSD trip. “No way,” said Walker, “I'm a naturist, I've never used drugs in my life. Anyone who looks at my lamp long enough doesn't need drugs at all.'

Some years, 7 million lava lamps were sold. By the end of the 1970s there were still 200 per month. In 1989 he sold his invention to the beautiful 22-year-old student Cressida Granger, who founded the company Mathmos and started working again.

By the end of the 1990s it was back to two million units per year.

Walker died of cancer in August 2000. He had then had four marriages, which had produced four children.

Three weeks before his death, he pulled off another stunt by using a newspaper advertisement to look for his girlfriend Pearl, whom he had known in the 1930s. "I was thinking about my childhood and suddenly her image flashed through my mind," he told a journalist. 'She was so sweet and gentle.

I wanted to know what became of her.' Walker was buried not far from Burley, the place where he had once discovered that special variant of an hourglass in a pub.