New Internationalist

Rubber

Issue 345

Rubber is made from the milky sap of various tropical plants including the Hevea caoutchouc. Charles-Marie de La Condamine (1701-1774), a French soldier and explorer, went to South America in the 1730s and noted local rubber production techniques, calling the substance caoutchouc after the local term for ‘weeping wood’. Caoutchouc was named ‘rubber’ in the 1770s after English scientist Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) noticed that the substance could be used to erase pencil marks from paper. American inventor Charles Goodyear (1800-1860) discovered vulcanization (a method of treating rubber to make it strong and elastic) in 1839 when he accidentally dropped a mixture of rubber and sulphur on a hot stove.

Susan Watkin

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