September 27, 2007

A Sticky Situation

Print More

During my tenure here at Cornell, I have received quite a few Big Red blows of mental anguish. From realizing there’s a term paper due yesterday to forgetting about a prelim that’s in 12 hours (you laugh now, but wait until it happens to you), Cornell can really stick it to you. However, one famous Cornellian found a way to stick it right back, literally: Harry Coover, Cornell M.S. and Ph.D. recipient, the inventor of superglue.
Coover was born in Newark, Delaware on March 6, 1919, and earned a B.S. from Hobart College before earning his degrees in Chemistry from Cornell. He accidentally created superglue (cyanoacrylate for you chem majors) during World War II while working at Eastman Kodak, where it was immediately used to seal punctures and to stop the bleeding of wounds (as opposed to what Coover had been looking for originally when he stumbled upon superglue — a clear plastic for soldiers’ gunsights).
Since it was so good at forcibly sticking things together, however, disasters were unavoidable. A friend of mine (who, incidentally, sports the personality of a crazy, over-caffeinated four-year-old girl) told me once, “I remember that we were building a bridge in middle school and I got one of my hands glued to the bridge. Then I thought ‘Well, I can just use my other hand to get myself free.’ Then I got both hands stuck to the bridge. Guess it wasn’t that great of an idea.” When I asked her if she resents superglue at all due to the pain it has caused her, she responded “Of course not! Superglue is genius in a can!”
The three other people I unscientifically surveyed (including myself) agreed with her sentiments. While superglue may frequently cause annoyance and irritation, the benefits outweigh the frustration of gluing flesh to any other solid surface. Not only is superglue useful in fixing and sealing things, it’s also useful for causing hilarity to ensue. You can glue your buddy’s hands behind his back or to a table (or his head to a table somehow … it can be done), and you can even stick your hand to a predetermined location on that one girl (NOTE: use your other hand to protect the jewels) in your class.
Even though Coover probably couldn’t have imagined all of the possible uses of superglue when he created it, Coover was a Cornellian, so undoubtedly he knew he could make an enormous amount of money on this versatile product. After all, everyone knows you end up buying a second tube (or, in the case of my crazy friend, a second can) when the first glues itself shut after one damn use. If that doesn’t sound like a devious Cornellian scheme, I don’t know what does.