Harry Coover

Wednesday 30 March 2011 00:00
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Harry Wesley Coover Jr, who died on 26 March aged 94, was best known as the inventor of Super Glue. Coover was working for Tennessee Eastman Company, a division of Eastman Kodak, when an accident helped lead to the popular adhesive being discovered. An assistant was distressed that some brand new refractometer prisms were ruined when they were glued together by the substance.

In 1951, Coover and another researcher recognised the potential for the strong adhesive, and it was first sold in 1958. Cyanoacrylate,the chemical name for the glue, was first uncovered in 1942 in a search for materials to make clear plastic gun sights for the Second World War. But the compound stuck to everything, which is why it was rejected by researchers.

Coover was born in Newark, Delaware, and received a degree in chemistry from Hobart College in New York before getting a master’s degree and PhD from Cornell. He worked his way up to vice-president of the chemical division for Eastman Kodak. Coover and the team of chemists he worked with became prolific patent holders, achieving more than 460. The work included polymers, organophosphate chemistry and the gasification of coal as well as cyanoacrylate.

Coover also had a part in early television history, appearing with Garry Moore in I’ve got a Secret. Moore, the show’s host, and Coover were hung in the air on bars that were stuck to metal supports with a single drop of his glue during a live television broadcast.

The Industrial Research Institute honoured Coover with a gold medal, while the US Patent Office inducted him into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio in 2004. President Barack Obama honored Coover last year with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

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