KINGSPORT, Tenn. — Harry Wesley Coover Jr., known as the inventor of Super Glue, has died. He was 94.
Coover was working for Tennessee Eastman Company, a division of Eastman Kodak, when an accident helped lead to the popular adhesive being discovered, according to his grandson, Adam Paul of South Carolina. 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 recognized the potential for the strong adhesive, and it was first sold in 1958, according to Super Glue Corp.’s website.
Cyanoacrylate, the chemical name for the glue, was first uncovered in 1942 in a search for materials to make clear plastic gun sights for World War II. But the compound stuck to everything, which is why it was rejected by researchers, the website said.
President Barack Obama honored Coover in 2010 with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
Coover died Saturday at his home in Kingsport, Tenn., his grandson said. He was born in Newark, Del., and received a degree in chemistry from Hobart College in New York before getting a master’s degree and Ph.D., from Cornell.
He worked his way up to vice president of the chemical division for development 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, the gasification of coal and of course, cyanoacrylate.
Coover also had a part in early television history, appearing with Garry Moore for “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, for which he served as president in 1982, honored Coover with a gold medal and the U.S. Patent Office inducted him into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio in 2004.
Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Home in Kingsport, Tenn., is handling the arrangements. Paul says a family memorial is planned for May at Allendale Mansion in Kingsport, Tenn.