Serendipitous Invention of Super Glue

(p. 23) Dr. Coover first happened upon the super-sticky adhesive — more formally known as cyanoacrylates — by accident when he was experimenting with acrylates for use in clear plastic gun-sights during World War II. He gave up because they stuck to everything they touched.

In 1951, a researcher named Fred Joyner, who was working with Dr. Coover at Eastman Kodak’s laboratory in Tennessee, was testing hundreds of compounds looking for a temperature-resistant coating for jet cockpits. When Mr. Joyner spread the 910th compound on the list between two lenses on a refractometer to take a reading on the velocity of light through it, he discovered he could not separate the lenses. His initial reaction was panic at the loss of the expensive lab equipment. “He ruined the machine,” Dr. Paul said of the refractometer. “Back in the ’50s, they cost like $3,000, which was huge.”
But Dr. Coover saw an opportunity. Seven years later, the first incarnation of Super Glue, called Eastman 910, hit the market.
In the name of science, Mr. Joyner was not punished for destroying the equipment, Dr. Paul said.
. . .
“I think he got a kick out of being Mr. Super Glue,” she said. “Who doesn’t love Super Glue?”
One of his proudest accomplishments, Dr. Paul added, was that his invention was used to treat injured soldiers during the Vietnam War. Medics, she said, carried bottles of Super Glue in spray form to stop bleeding.
. . .
Super Glue did not make Dr. Coover rich. It did not become a commercial success until the patents had expired, his son-in-law, Dr. Vincent E. Paul, said. “He did very, very well in his career,” Dr. Paul said, “but he did not glean the royalties from Super Glue that you might think.”

For the full obituary, see:
ELIZABETH A. HARRIS. “Harry Coover, 94; Invented Super Glue.” The New York Times (Mon., MARCH 28, 2011): A23.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary is dated March 27, 2011 and had the title “Harry Coover, Super Glue’s Inventor, Dies at 94.”)

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