History of Super Glue

Plato once said, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and when there is more need than during wartime. Necessity can also lead to surprises, just like Dr. Harry Coover’s discovery of Superglue. 

Coover’s discovery led to the Super Glue that we all know and use today. This handy adhesive has gone from mending soldiers on the battlefield to mending broken furniture. In this article, you’ll learn all about the history of Super Glue and how this superglue has become a household necessity. 

Original Discovery in 1941

There’s the common myth that soldiers during WWII learned about superglue and later used it to close their battle wounds. While the superglue that we know about today was an accidental discovery, it didn’t make its way to the public until after WWII. 

We all know that “Super Glue” is also known as Cyanoacrylate. In 1942, Dr. Harry Coover invented super glue while looking to create a transparent plastic gun sight for the Allied Forces. 

Coover discovered a formula that wouldn’t work out for clear gun sights, but it made for an excellent and quick bonding adhesive. But despite the potential commercial success, Coover decided to completely abandon the glue because it was too sticky for his current project. 

Re-Discovery in 1951

Almost a decade later, Coover was working at Eastman Kodak as the supervisor for a project for developing heat-resistant acrylate polymer for jet canopies. Also working on the project was Fred Joyner. 

During the project, he used Coover’s almost forgotten super glue at some point. Joyner decided to test the adhesive by spreading the ethyl cyanoacrylate between two refractometer prisms. 

Surprisingly, the adhesive managed to stick the prisms together solidly. When Coover saw this, he abandoned the Super Glue (cyanoacrylate). Instead, he decided that there was significant potential for a quick and robust adhesive that needed a small amount of water to work. 

Harry Coover

Dr. Harry Coover was born in Newark, Delaware, on 6 March 1917 and lived there until he was a teenager. While he lived in Delaware, Coover was hit by a train while driving. Because of this collision, Coover was in a coma that lasted approximately six weeks. 

After recovering, he relocated to Weedsport, New York, to finish his high school education. While living in New York, Coover received his Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Hobart College. After that, he went to Cornell University and earned his Master of Science and Ph.D. in organic chemistry. 

For his Ph.D. Coover’s dissertation focused on the commercial synthesis of vitamin B6, and he planned to work with the vitamin. This was until the start of WWII, and his work had been taken to be used by the military. 

Later, Coover worked as a chemist for Eastman Kodak between 1944 tand1973. Then from 1973 to 1984, he worked as the Vice President of research and development for Eastman Kodak. Then in 1951, Coover went to Kingsport, Tennessee, to work at Eastman Kodak’s chemical plant. 

Coover married a woman named Murial Zumbach, and they were together until she passed away in 2005. He passed away from natural causes in his home in Kingsport Tennesse, on March 26, 2011. 

Super Glue wasn’t Coover’s only invention. He held more than 400 patents. Coover implemented programmed innovation at Kodak, which led to 320 new products being introduced and an increase in sales up to $2.5 billion. 

In later years, Coover created a multinational management consulting practice. This practice advised corporations all over the world on programmed innovation methodology. 

Coover has received several awards and honors for his work. In 2012, Former US President, Barack Obama gave Coover the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. 

Commercial Sale of Super Glue

After seeing the potential of cyanoacrylates (Super Glue) in 1951, Coover and Joyner decided to have it sold commercially. In 1958, Eastman Kodak eventually sold this adhesive made from cyanoacrylates under Eastman #910. It would only be later that the adhesive would be named “Super Glue.” 

Soon after Eastman Kodak first sold the superglue, Loctite was authorized to sell Eastman #910. Loctite then re-branded the adhesive, and it was renamed “Loctite Quick Set 404.” Sometime later, the company developed their version of Coover’s invention and labeled it“Super Bonder.” 

During the 1970s, plenty of cyanoacrylate superglue manufacturers popped up. These manufacturers included Loctite, Eastman Kodak, and Permabond, which made up for most of the superglue production. 

Use during Vietnam War

Since Coover accidentally discovered the discovery of cyanoacrylate superglue during WWII, it seems fitting that it was helpful in another infamous war; the Vietnam War. The last two decades and the glue was handy for treating war wounds. 

During the war, field surgeons would use this super glue as a spray over open wounds. The superglue was helpful for instantly stopping the bleeding, and the authorities could transport injured soldiers to medical facilities for further treatment. 

Field surgeons using cyanoacrylate managed to save the lives of many soldiers during the war. The lives saved led to the FDA approving cyanoacrylates for some medical procedures. 

These uses include sealing bleeding ulcers, lesions or punctures, rejoining veins and arteries during surgery. Doctors can also use cyanoacrylate to stop bleeding from some organs, and even dentists can use the glue in dental surgery. 

About the author

Jennifer is a stay-at-home Mom who loves everything DIY and crafting. She contributes to Just Use Glue in order to share her practical knowledge of how to glue all the things.

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