Charles Goodyear: Working Without Pay

Part 4 in the series Inspirational People

It strikes me that today’s greatest weapon against AIDS , the condom, was made possible by a man who ended up in jail 6 times for unpaid debts, almost 150 years ago. Charles Goodyear (21 December 1800 – 1 July 1860) is the man who researched and developed the manufacturing process for making rubber durable and usable as we know it today.

After some time experimenting with gum, he went to New York and noticed the poor quality of tubes used to inflate lifebuoys (life preservers). He went home to Philadelphia and made better tubes with the gum he had been experimenting with and made a demonstration to the managers of Roxbury Rubber Company. They were impressed.

Roxbury told Goodyear that his product had to be tested for a year prior to approval. To his surprise, thousands of dollars in goods were returned because the gum was rotting. It is then that Goodyear made up his mind to experiment more with gum.

The first major breakthrough

When he returned home, an investor had him arrested and imprisoned! While he was in prison, he experimented with Indian rubber, magnesia and turpentine and discovered that that concoction removed the stickiness from the gum. He had made a breakthrough – or so he thought. After his release, he made a water resistant pair of shoes with the assistance of his wife and children.  Impressing some investors, he got access to some more funding.

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