The late Dr. Harry W. Coover, Jr. ’41, P’66, inventor of Super Glue and Hobart Medal of Excellence recipient, was noted in a special segment of the CBS television show, “Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation,” on Saturday, July 18. The episode airred at 8 a.m. on local CBS channels in Rochester and Syracuse areas.
A half-hour, educational and informative program, “Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation” acknowledges both inventors and innovators of the past and present. Each episode features new inventions and background information on how each of them came to life. Coover and his invention was the focus of a segment called, “Mo You Know,” named for host Mo Rocca, a humorist and correspondent for CBS News Sunday Morning. The segment takes the form of a quiz about inventors and the inventions that they created.
Coover’s Super Glue invention has made a permanent impact on the modern world, with industrial, household and medical uses. He was the first to recognize and patent cyanoacrylates as human tissue adhesives, used in many sutureless surgeries such as the rejoining of veins, arteries, and intestines, ophthalmic surgeries, dental surgeries, uncontrollable bleeding, and the repair of soft organs. Since the 1970s, tissue adhesives have been used for a variety of surgical applications, including middle ear surgery, bone and cartilage grafts, repair of cerebrospinal fluid leaks, and skin closure.
His invention began as a fortunate accident. While working at Eastman Kodak’s Chemical Division, Coover investigated high temperature resistant polymers for use on aircrafts when he discovered that the cyanoacrylates that they were using were deemed “too sticky” because of their instantaneous bondage. It was at this moment when he realized he had discovered a versatile adhesive that would change the industry for years to come. Initially the product was only available for industrial purposes but not long after was available for commercial sale and use in 1958.
In his lifetime he received prestigious awards such as the Southern Chemist Man of the Year Award, the Maurice Holland Award, and the Earle B. Barnes Award for Leadership in Chemical Research Management. He was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, to be among many other respected inventors such as Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. In 2010, President Barack Obama presented him with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. He also was awarded the Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Hobart Medal of Excellence.
Coover earned his B.S. in science from Hobart in 1941 before earning his M.S. and Ph.D. from Cornell University. He worked for Eastman Kodak for 40 years, during which time he wrote 60 papers and had 460 patents.
For more information about “Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation,” visit the show’s website.