Alexander John Forsyth

Alexander John Forsyth ( born December 28, 1769 in Belhelvie ( Aberdeenshire ), † June 11, 1843 in Belhelvie ) was a Scottish clergyman ( Rev. ) of the Presbyterian Church and is considered the inventor of the percussion ignition.


As the son of the pastor James Forsyth, Alexander Forsyth decided also for this profession. At King 's College (University) raised in Aberdeen, he joined in 1790 the succession to his late father and became a minister in Belhelvie. By the way, he worked on chemistry and constructed 1805-07 a novel ignition mechanism for the propellant charge of the bullets in handguns, 1807, he patented his invention. This igniter is called a percussion lock and replaced the hitherto usual, less reliable flintlock systems. The ignition of the propellant charge was carried out by " popping acid mercuric oxide ".

The interest of the British army on its construction was initially large and Forsyth initially received support from the Master General of Artillery, Lord Moira. In a workshop in the Tower of London, he was able to develop his design further, later founded the company Forsyth " Forsyth & Co." in Piccadilly. An offer of Napoleon to go for £ 20,000 with his invention to France, he refused.

In addition to his work as a pastor and inventor Forsyth founded a bank in Belhelvie. Only very late recognition he was awarded in the form of a modest pension from the British government, the first ( and last) installment he received on the day of his death. Forsyth died in 1843, he rests in the old cemetery of Belhelvie in the family grave alongside his father.


In the Tower of London to him 1929/30, a monument was erected, also recalls him a bronze plaque at the Cromwell Tower. Another commemorative plaque is located in the " quad " of King's College at the University of Aberdeen.