There are some jobs that can give workers moments of great stress. One that comes to mind is the one responsible for blasting away the rock in mines to get to the good stuff, whatever that was. Of course explosives have been around for a long time.
The Chinese were using gunpowder in the 10th century. Gunpowder is relatively easy to ignite, but the ignition must be controlled for maximum safety to the mine workers. Explosives were used in mines by 1574, with large scale use in France by 1617.
The first fuses were bundles of straw or goose quills, tied together and filled with gunpowder. The only problem was that the burn was not reliable. You worked by guess and by golly as to the time it would take to set off the explosive. And of course, you could wind up with misfires and "hang fires." The result was a very dangerous situation begging the question of just when you should go back in and check it out.
William Bickford was an English merchant who happened to be visiting a friend who was a rope maker. Bickford was not a miner, but had kept up with the reports of mining accidents that made the news, most caused by the misfires. As he watched his friend work, Bickford thought he could adapt the process to produce a fuse for explosives.
He sat to work, aided by his son-in-law and a miner, and soon had a prototype to test. He invented a machine to twist and weave jute around a "tube" of gunpowder, which was then covered with tar, making it waterproof. It worked better than even they visualized and the "safety fuse" was born and patented. The beauty of the fuse was that it would burn at a given rate, one foot every 30 seconds. By knowing the rate of burn based on the length of the fuse, miners could now know how long they had to clear the area once the fuse was lit.
William Bickford was one man who definitely changed the course of history with the use of his fuse which improved the safety of men working in mines. There is no telling how many lives were saved by this one invention. Who says one person can never make a difference in this world? He certainly did. Good for you, William Bickford.
To all the budding inventors out there, if you get an idea to better this world, more power to you and may you see it successfully through to a successful end. Who knows what a difference you may make to improve the lives of all those around you. Good luck!!