Edward Craven Walker,
World War II veteran, inventor, and enthusiastic nudist Edward Craven Walker, the father of the 60's fixture, the Lava Lamp, died August 15th, 2000 in Ringwood England at the age of 82. Walker, who promoted the psychedelic luminary and his naturist ideals with equal abandon, had been suffering from an undisclosed form of cancer.
Born in Singapore in 1918 on July 4th Walker returned to his parents native England as a child where he attended private school at Charterhouse. Walker worked briefly at the British-American Tobacco Company before joining the Royal Air Force during World War II, when he served as a squadron leader and piloted Mosquito Aircraft on photo-reconnaissance missions. After his discharge from the RAF, Walker worked to establish an international home-exchange agency, which he based in London.
Walker made 2 discoveries during the early 1950s that changed his world, and certainly offered interesting visuals to everyone else: While visiting the Isle du Levant off the southern coast of France became acquainted with the philosophy and practice of "Naturism " and while at the Queen's Head Pub, New Forest, England, with a bizarre egg-timer which inspired his invention, the Lava Lamp. More people embraced the Lava Lamp (or Astro Lamp as it was originally patented) than Naturist or nudist practices. Working on his lamp design and a formula which gave the "lava" or waxy filler of his novelty lamps a more sculptural form than the early oil and water design which had inspired him, Walker debuted the lamps in 1963, original production coming from a workshop at his home.
Sold first at London based stores Selfridges and then Fortnum and Mason, the mesmerizing lamps preceded the craze for psychedelia, but became one of the pop culture symbols of the 1960s and 70s. At the height of the Lava Lamp's popularity, Walker was seeing 7 million lamps a year sold worldwide. Once accused of using the hypnotic, wildly colored, morphing lamps to promote drug use, the staunch Naturist claimed that the lamps were so tranquilizing alone, "a person wouldn't need drugs." Walker sold his firm in the 1980s to Cressida Granger, whose company, Mathmos , continued to manufacture the lamps. A resurgence in 60's pop culture in the 1990s brought sales for Mathmos lamps from 2,400 annually to over 800,000 a year, not including the sales of imitators . England's Design Council awarded the Lava Lamp the seal of "Design Classic" in July 2000.
Walker meanwhile had used his good fortune as a designer to advance the practice of Naturism, and had released several films promoting the lifestyle, including "Traveling Light", whose proceeds helped him establish the District Naturist Center in England, the country's best-known nudist colony. Walker was attacked in his nation's press and nearly its courts when he attempted to ban obese individuals from the resort, arguing that Naturism was based on promoting a healthy spiritual and physical life, and obesity defied both ideals.
Edward Craven Walker is survived by his 4th wife Susan, 2 daughters and 2 sons.