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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 6 Issue 1 (2001) pp 50-54

Charles Goodyear (1800–1860), American Inventor, on the Bicentennial of His Birth

George B. Kauffman

Department of Chemistry, California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA 93740-8034

Published online: 15 December 2000

Abstract. Goodyear was neither a chemist nor scientist and, like Thomas Edison, used trial-and-error methods. He recognized rubber’s valuable properties—elasticity, plasticity, strength, durability, electrical nonconductance, and resistance to water, and he became preoccupied with this elastomer. His vulcanization process, accidentally discovered in 1839 after five years of countless experiments, transformed rubber from a smelly, virtually useless substance that became sticky in summer, hardened and cracked in winter, and was attacked by various solvents into a stable, versatile commercial product with literally hundreds of uses. He devoted the last quarter-century of his life to experimenting with ways to improve, promote, and exhibit it to the great detriment of his own and his family’s finances and health.

Key Words:  Chemistry and History; Goodyear; rubber

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Issue date: February 1, 2001

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