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Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear was an American inventor famed for developing vulcanised rubber.

Born in Connecticut in 1800, Charles exhibited an ambitious and determined streak, but he encountered many failures in his life and was plagued by setbacks, ill health and poverty. He also spent time in prison.

Charles' career began in a hardware store, working alongside his father. After this business went bankrupt, Charles invented a type of valve, but this failed to attract any interest. While attempting to sell his idea of an improved valve, he discovered along the way that rubber had some flaws, and so his interest in improving rubber was ignited when he was 33 years old.

Charles noticed that rubber became brittle during low temperatures, but melted into a sticky gum when it became hot. He became obsessed with finding ways to create an improved rubber that would stand up to extreme temperatures. Whatever little time, money or resources Charles owned, he would spend these experimenting with mixing different ingredients together with rubber to see what outcome he could create. During this time, he often landed himself in bother with his long-suffering wife and the law.

Charles thought he had finally made a breakthrough when he treated rubber with nitric acid and sulphuric acid, but this idea never took off. Keen to persevere, Charles took his interest with rubber to new levels, even wearing rubber clothes in an effort to keep his endeavours in the public eye. Despite being commissioned to produce 150 mailbags made from rubber, these all melted in hot weather, and Charles was back to square one.

It was in 1839 that Charles stumbled upon a formula that would give rubber the robust, heat-resistant qualities he'd been striving to create for so long, when he accidentally spilt rubber and a sulphur mix on to a hot stove. Charles was amazed to see that the rubber only charred at the edges, and it didn't melt as it had in his previous attempts. As well as maintaining its elastic properties during exposure to heat, Charles noted that the rubber remained flexible when cold.

In 1844, Charles obtained a patent for his invention, creating a process known as vulcanisation. However, his lack of business acumen meant he never obtained financial gains from this invention, and he fell into debt trying to market his rubber products. He was, however, awarded the Legion of Honour for his efforts.

After his death in 1860, Charles was recognised for revolutionising the rubber industry when Frank Seiberling named his business The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1898. Without Charles' discovery, the company wouldn't have been possible. A school in Massachusetts has also been named after Charles Goodyear, as well as a medal honours awarded by the ACS Rubber Division. Charles was also selected for induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1976.

Coruba is another company to benefit from Charles Goodyear's rubber vulcanisation discovery. If you need high-quality rubber products for industrial, commercial or residential purposes, such as rubber matting, sheeting, gaskets and seals, mouldings or extrusions, Coruba can serve all of your needs.

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