The Inventor of Super Glue Dies at 94
CNN reported that “Coover got the idea for Super Glue during a lab accident while working for Eastman Kodak… He was studying compounds for use in optically perfect gun sights and impact-resistant jet canopies when an assistant complained that new refractometer prisms were wrecked because they got glued together.”
While it’s true that Coover first encountered the substance under those circumstances in 1942, it was actually six more years before Coover recognized the potential of cyanoacrylates–the scientific name of the compound.
According to the MIT website— which featured Coover as their “Inventor of the Week” in September 2004–Coover “had been overseeing the work of a group of Kodak chemists who were researching heat-resistant polymers for jet airplane canopies. They tested cyanoacrylate monomers and this time, Coover realized these sticky adhesives had unique properties in that they required no heat or pressure to bond. He and his team tried the substance on various items in the lab and each time, the items became permanently bonded together.”
Since then, Super Glue has been used in a myriad of different ways, for everything from fixing broken lamps to treating war wounds in the Vietnam war (it was sprayed over open wounds to stop the bleeding).
So today we honor Harry Coover, who died from congestive heart failure in his home in Kingsport, Tennessee, two days ago.
Like so many before and after him, Coover stumbled upon his invention accidentally. Luckily for Coover, and for the millions of people who have benefited from his discovery, Coover had the foresight to see his “failed” experiments for what they really were: a huge success waiting to happen.