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John Joseph Merlin

Inventor and Horologist (1735-1803)

He was born in Huy (Liège province, Wallonia) and invented roller skates when, around 1760, he adapted a pair of ice skates for use on land by replacing their blades with metal wheels on a wooden sole.

An anecdote recounts how he was invited to demonstrate his invention at a society gathering in London: he skated into the room while playing a violin and promptly crashed into a large, valuable mirror, almost killing himself in the process (this may be the first recorded fall in the history of roller-skating).

He was also one of the favourite organ manufacturers of Johann Christian Bach (son of Johann Sebastian Bach), who he became friend with. 

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Famous Belgians

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Belgian Tourist Office Wallonia 217 Marsh Wall London E14 9FJ Tel: 0207 531 0390 info@belgiumtheplaceto.be