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Born: Dec. 29, 1800, New Haven, Conn., U.S.
Died: July 1, 1860, New York City


Charles Goodyear was the American inventor of the vulcanization process that made possible the commercial use of rubber.

Goodyear became interested in discovering a method of treating india rubber so that it would lose its adhesiveness and susceptibility to extremes of heat and cold. He developed a nitric acid treatment and in 1837 contracted for the manufacture by this process of mailbags for the U.S. government, but the rubber fabric proved useless at high temperatures.

For the next few years he worked with Nathaniel M. Hayward (1808-65), a former employee of a rubber factory in Roxbury, Mass., who had discovered that rubber treated with sulfur was not sticky. Goodyear bought Hayward's process. In 1839 he accidentally dropped some India rubber mixed with sulfur on a hot stove and so discovered vulcanization. He was granted his first patent in 1844 but had to fight numerous infringements in court; the decisive victory did not come until 1852. That year he went to England. While there he unsuccessfully attempted to establish factories. He also lost his patent rights there and in France because of technical and legal problems.