Kuiper shows off his current favorite toy. He says it is “very historical” because it’s been in our yard for over a month. Thanks, neighbor kids! ?
Kuiper would likely prefer the original soccer balls made of pig bladder, but they’ve always seemed kind of unhygienic to me for some reason. ? We can thank Charles Goodyear for designing and crafting the first modern incarnation in 1855. His discovery of the process of rubber “vulcanization” ? had long-lasting impacts on a number of industries.
Natural latex rubber was all we had in the 19th century; the first synthetics weren’t produced until around 1910 and production didn’t start ramping til the 30s. Unfortunately, rubber in its natural state isn’t all that useful. When it’s cold, it’s brittle and it breaks. When it’s hot, it starts to melt. If you stretch it, it won’t return to its original shape, and it sticks to everything. ?
In 1839, after years of experimenting with substances ranging from magnesium oxide powder to cream cheese(!!), Goodyear accidentally discovered that a combination of sulphur and heat would stabilize rubber. He managed to secure a US patent for the process, but he filed it a few weeks after a man named Thomas Hancock filed in the UK. Hancock had reverse engineered the process based on samples from Goodyear. He named it vulcanization ? based on the Roman god of ?
The discovery helped propel the industrial revolution. Vulcanization ? is the basis of everything from car tires to machine hoses and conveyor belts to pencil erasers (and of course soccer balls.) Even synthetic rubbers (e.g. neoprene, like in wetsuits) are almost always vulcanized.
Unfortunately, Goodyear was not a great businessman. He spent years in and out of debtors prison before dying in poverty in 1860. However, his name lives on. The Goodyear Tire company was named in his honor almost 40 years later, and in 1976 he was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
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