Harry Coover won the National Medal of Technology and Innovation this week for the discovery of cyanoacrylate glues, otherwise known as "superglue". Congratulations! Good to see advanced materials and industrial research receiving recognition. Below is the Wikipedia account summarizing his work. Note the role of serendipity, long term patient research, and ability to adjust the technology to the market need. Programmed Innovation.
Harry Coover (born Harry Wesley Coover, Jr. on March 6, 1919) invented cyanoacrylate glue, commonly known as Super Glue or Eastman 910.
Dr. Harry W. Coover, Jr. is an inventor, an innovator, and an accidental glue guru.
Coover was born in Newark, Delaware and received his Bachelor of Science from Hobart College before earning his Master of Science and Ph. D. from Cornell University. He worked as a chemist for Eastman Kodak from 1944–1973 and as Vice President of the company from 1973-1984. and now resides in Kingsport, Tennessee.
In 1942, while searching for materials to make clear plastic gun sights, Coover and his team at Eastman Kodak first worked with cyanoacrylates, rejecting them as too sticky. Nine years later, Coover was overseeing Kodak chemists investigating heat-resistant polymers for jet canopies when cyanoacrylates were once again tested and proved too sticky. That time around, however, Coover recognized that he had discovered a unique adhesive. In 1958 the adhesive, marketed as Super Glue, was introduced for sale.
While much attention was given to the glue’s capacity to bond solid materials, Coover was also the first to recognize and patent cyanoacrylates as a tissue adhesive. First used in the Vietnam War to temporarily patch the internal organs of injured soldiers until conventional surgery could be performed, tissue adhesives are now used worldwide for a variety of sutureless surgical applications.
Coover holds 460 patents, and Super Glue is just one of his many discoveries. He views "programmed innovation," a management methodology emphasizing research and development, among his most important work. Implemented at Kodak, programmed innovation resulted in the introduction of 320 new products and sales growth from $1.8 billion to $2.5 billion. Coover later formed an international management consulting practice, advising corporate clients around the world on programmed innovation methodology.
Coover received the Southern Chemist Man of the Year Award for his outstanding accomplishments in individual innovation and creativity. He also holds the Earle B. Barnes Award for Leadership in Chemical Research Management, the Maurice Holland Award and is a medalist for the Industrial Research Institute. In 2004, Coover was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame.