“Taming” Rubber:

There is a misconception that Europeans owe the invention of rubber to Columbus. In fact, the navigator just left a description of how the natives of the islands of Haiti played with a ball made of thickened milky sap flowing from cuts on the Brazilian hevea bark. The word “rubber” in the language of the Indians of the Amazon is pronounced “kao-chu” and means “tree tears”.

European Adaptations:

Much later, the Europeans who visited America, got to know the rubber better and even learned, like the locals, to soak their cloaks with the sap of a rubber tree. But in the Old World, rubber was only introduced in 1751. A bit of frozen juice caught the interest of mathematician Charles La Condamine. 

He watched his “trophy” for a long time, but could not figure out in any way how rubber could benefit him personally and to humanity as a whole. In addition to elasticity, rubber had no other properties. Therefore, the mathematician called the American gum gummastic and forgot about it. And only almost 20 years later, the frozen juice was used.

It’s ‘Erasing’ Ability Discovered:

history of rubber and erasers
Imagine a world where we never learned to manufacture rubber…

An English priest and chemist Joseph Priestley (Joseph Priestley) in 1770 accidentally discovered that raw natural rubber was able to erase traces of graphite (pencil) better than the particles of bread that were used at the time for the same purpose. This advantage of rubber is due to the fact that its friction on paper causes electrostatic tension, which allows rubber particles to attract graphite particles. 

Pristley called this substance “Indian rubber” (from the English. Indian rubber – “Indian rubber”). The origin of rubber was America, but at that time all American things were called Indian, and this inaccurate name has survived to this day.

Discovery of Rubber’s Additional Properties:

However, experiments with rubber continued. The Scottish chemist Charles Mackintosh once accidentally dirtied his jacket or trousers. It turned out that the damaged item had acquired waterproof properties. Thus was born the rubberized raincoat, named after its inventor makintosh. However, the “Scottish rain coat” did not immediately won universal recognition. The fact is that natural rubber lost its elasticity when it was cold, and in the heat it softened, became sticky and began to smell foul.


Not knowing about this property of the material, the English shoemaker Rilly began producing rubber shoes. They say that his goods initially aroused great interest, but when the summer sun got hot, boots and galoshes literally melted on the shelves of the shop. 

Despite the failure that befell Rilly, his business was continued by the American Charles Goodyear. He was a poor man, but having set a goal to “tame” rubber, he persistently sought to achieve it. It is said that one industrialist, having become interested in the experiences of the self-taught inventor, decided to find him. He asked the neighbors how to find Mr. Goodir. He was told that “if you meet a person in a rubber hat, trousers, frock coat, cloak, shoes and with a rubber purse without a single cent in it, then this will be Goodir.” 

The Tipping Point: When Rubber Meets the Road.

In fact, the inventor has made a revolution in the technology of manufacturing rubber products. He discovered the principle of vulcanization of rubber, that is, special processing of rubber, in which the latter combines with sulfur and as a result acquires the ability to not react to temperature changes. In 1843, he patented this process.

As you can see, many interesting historical figures have put their hands and heads on the rubber. In addition, Priestley needs to say thank you also for sparkling water, and Mr. Goudiru – for the famous American Goodyear tires, which glorify his name to this day.