No one set out to develop Super Glue ™. It was an accident from which a series of fortuitous events occurred with guidance from forward thinking individuals who saw its potential and need. My first introduction to Super Glue ™ was when my remote control car broke after multiple collisions into skirting boards around the house. I was perhaps seven years old when I witnessed the magical powers of Super Glue ™ to place raw angry jagged edges of plastic into the past within minutes.
During World War II, Dr Harry Coover and Harry Joyner working at Kodak Laboratories researching a group of chemicals known as cyanoacrylates. The research effort was towards creating a clear plastic to be used as precision gunsights for soldiers. There was just one problem. The cyanoacrylates were incredibly sticky and made working with them incredibly difficult. Added to this, the presence of moisture would cause the individual molecules to link up creating a strong bond with a myriad of surfaces. The research moved on given the difficulties and there was a war to win. Unbreakable clear gunsights were needed.
In 1951 after the conclusion of World War II, Dr Coover was transferred to Kodak’s chemical plant in Kingsport where he re-discovered the sticky cyanoacrylates. The research focus was different now. A search for heat-resistant polymers were needed for aeroplane canopies and this time the potential of cyanoacrylates was realised. These sticky chemicals did not require any heat or pressure for a strong bond to form. How often have you accidentally stuck one item to another or perhaps to fingers together?
It was now that there was a realisation that something special was happening. A problem and difficult chemical had a use as a glue. In 1958, “Eastman 910″ was marketed as a glue before it was known as Super Glue ™. Dr Coover became a celebrity after appearing on television on I’ve Got a Secret when he lifted the host, Garry Moore, off the ground using only one drop of “Eastman 910″.
During the Vietnam War, it became obvious that cyanoacrylates could be used to treat war wounds. When cyanoacrylates were used in a spray solution on open wounds, bleeding stopped. This simple action saved lives and this led to an approval by the FDA allowing the use of cyanoacrylates in some medical uses. Cyanoacrylates have been used to rejoin arteries and veins or to seal bleeding ulcers in surgeries. The use of cyanoacrylates also appears in dental surgery.
Dr Harry Coover passed away on Saturday at the age of 94.
- Harry Coover obituary (guardian.co.uk)
- Harry Coover forever stuck to his invention, Super Glue (seattletimes.nwsource.com)