Inventor. He invented the vulcanization process that made rubber the practical waterproof material we know today. He devoted his life to bringing the benefits of rubber to humankind. In response, humankind either dismissed him as a crackpot, or actively sought to steal his inventions and to destroy him. He died bankrupt, after decades of poor health brought on by persistent poverty. He had nothing to do with the Goodyear Tire & Rubber, which wasn't organized until 40 years after his death. He was born Charles Goodyear in New Haven, Connecticut on December 29, 1800. He had little schooling, and once he was past childhood, worked in his father's hardware business. That business failed in 1830, which was when Goodyear began experimenting with a substance called rubber. The raw rubber of this period was a gummy sap from trees in Brazil. It interested many people because of its natural property of being waterproof and its ability to be stretched and formed. But it was also not very practical at extremes of temperature. It became brittle when cold and melted when warm, which frustrated early attempts by various entrepreneurs to use rubber in the manufacture of their products. Goodyear's idea was that if he could make the product more stable, it could become a useful material. He experimented with putting different additives into rubber, but no matter what he added, the product was too gummy and would not keep its shape in hot weather, and it would not maintain its elasticity in cold temperatures. By 1836 Goodyear developed a nitric acid treatment which partially remedied these defects. At last he stumbled across the beneficial effects of adding sulfur to the rubber and then heating it, which he developed into the famous vulcanizing process, and first patented it in 1844. Goodyear's discovery was to revolutionize the rubber industry, but he was unable to personally profit from it. His patent rights were continually infringed upon, and when he died in 1860, he was $200,000 in debt.
Bio by: Edward Parsons