John S. Barry

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The Independent Online

John S. Barry, who died on 3 July aged 84, is credited with turning WD-40 into a household name.

Employees of what was then the Rocket Chemical Co. in San Diego were selling their rust-preventer out of car trunks when Barry joined in 1969 as president and CEO. WD-40 was used to coat missiles but also had a smaller following among consumers who used it to lubricate everything from bicycle chains to fishing reels. Barry, who held a business degree from MIT, suggested renaming the firm after its product and went on to help build the company's place in the global market.

WD-40 was invented in 1953 when Rocket staff set out to develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry. It took them 40 attempts to work out the water displacement formula; the name WD-40 stands for "water displacement, formulation successful in 40th attempt."