Featured Innovator Charles Goodyear
Every other week, we acknowledge an individual throughout history who has brought long lasting innovation to the supply chain and logistics industry.
Charles Goodyear: Vulcanized Rubber
Happy First Monday of 2020!
We are so excited to start our Featured Innovator series back up again, and who better to start with than Charles Goodyear?
After rubber was discovered in the Hevea brasiliensis tree of Brazil, a “rubber fever” ensued, with tons of companies popping up to sell the waterproof material. Once the summer hit and customers realized the product would melt, thousands of melted rubber articles were being returned by outraged customers.
The directors at Roxbury India Rubber Co., America's first rubber manufacturer, had met in the dead of night to bury $20,000 worth of stinking rubber rejects in a pit.
When Charles Goodyear showed up to the company to show the store manager a new valve he had devised for the rubber life preserver, he was turned away.
Shortly after that (after getting out of jail for debt), Charles Goodyear began working on a new formula. He reasoned that since rubber was naturally adhesive, he should be able to mix in a dry powder to absorb its stickiness and prevent it from melting.
Charles worked for five long years, occasionally gaining investors for his projects, but he eventually lost everything again; he was near rock bottom. Then, in the winter of 1839, he made a great discovery.
One February day, Charles Goodyear wandered into Woburn’s general store to show off his latest gum-and-sulphur rubber formula. Snickers rose from the cracker-barrel forum, and the usually mild-mannered little inventor got excited, waved his sticky fistful of gum in the air. It flew from his fingers and landed on the sizzling-hot potbellied stove.
When he bent to scrape it off, he found that instead of melting like molasses, it had charred like leather. And around the charred area was a dry, springy brown rim — “gum elastic” still, but so remarkably altered that it was virtually a new substance.
He had made weatherproof rubber.
The rest of Charles’ life was not easy – he developed physical illness which hindered his ability to develop his business and died $200,000 in debt. Neither Goodyear nor his family was ever connected with the company named in his honor, today’s billion-dollar Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.– however royalties did make his family comfortable after he passed.
Charles Goodyear is an excellent example of a person who brought long lasting innovation to the supply chain and logistics industry we know and love.
Check back in two weeks for our newest featured innovator!