Harry W. Coover's discovery of Super Glue changed the course of medical technology, as well as that of household maintenance
(February 18, 2004) Geneva, N.Y.–We've praised it when it repaired the delicate handle on Aunt Martha's porcelain teacup, and cursed it when our fingers got stuck to said cup. Super Glue has become a staple in most American households. Now this ingenious adhesive's creator has earned a permanent spot among the world's great inventors.
Harry W. Coover, a 1941 graduate of Hobart College, recently was tapped for induction into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio. With his induction in May, Coover will join the ranks of such innovators as Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
In 1942, while working for Eastman Kodak Co., Coover tried to fashion clear plastic gun sights out of cyanoacrylate monomers, but rejected them because they were too sticky. Nine years later, while supervising a group of Kodak chemists investigating heat-resistant polymers for jet-plane canopies, he once again tested cyanoacrylate monomers. This time, however, Coover recognized that he had discovered a unique adhesive that required neither heat nor pressure to bond.
Super Glue hit the market in 1958. That same year, Coover appeared on TV's “I've Got a Secret,” where he hoisted host Garry Moore off the floor using a single drop of his invention.
Coover also was the first to recognize and patent cyanoacrylates as a human tissue adhesive, used in sutureless surgeries such as the rejoining of veins and the repair of soft organs such as the liver and spleen. The adhesive was first used during the Vietnam War to temporarily patch the internal organs of badly injured soldiers until conventional surgery could be performed. Coover has said he is most proud of the glue's use in Vietnam.
Coover is the recipient of the American Chemical Society's Southern Chemist Award for his outstanding accomplishment in individual innovation and creativity. He also holds the Earle B. Barnes Award for Leadership in Chemical Research Management and the Maurice Holland Award, presented by the Industrial Research Institute.
Coover currently resides in Kingsport, Tenn., with wife Muriel and children H. Wesley III, Stephen and Melinda Coover Paul.
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