October 25, 2010

Alumnus Who Invented Super Glue Wins National Medal of Technology and Innovation

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On October 14, President Barack Obama announced that the Cornell alumnus who invented super glue was among four scientists awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Harry Coover M.S. ’43 Ph.D. ’44 is known for his creation of the adhesive called cyanoacrylate — more commonly known as super glue — which has become ubiquitous in factories, dentists’ offices and households around the country and the world.

The award is the highest honor the President of the United States can bestow for achievements in technology.

“The extraordinary accomplishments of these scientists, engineers and inventors are a testament to American industry and ingenuity,” Obama said in a statement. “Their achievements have redrawn the frontiers of human knowledge while enhancing American prosperity, and it is my tremendous pleasure to honor them for their important contributions.”

Coover accidentally created the substance while working to make transparent plastic for precision gunsights for the Eastman Kodak Company during World War II. It was too sticky for his purposes then, but Coover was soon able to put that problematic quality to use, and he patented it as an adhesive. It was first sold to the public in 1958.

Since then, the substance has been used for everything from household repairs to stopping the bleeding of wounded soldiers in the Vietnam War to rejoining arteries in some forms of surgery.

“The accidental glue guru,” as Coover’s Wikipedia entry calls him, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004 and holds a total of 460 patents.

Coover and the other Medal of Technology winners will be recognized by Obama at a ceremony in mid-November.

Original Author: Eliza LaJoie