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Super Glue - Icon

Colin Ryan
Feb 2, 2011 SHARE

Normally we like things to get us out of sticky situations. This icon gets us into them. Known to the world as Super Glue or Krazy Glue, chemists might refer to it as cyanoacrylate, or C5H5HO2. Or there’s the even more boring, Eastman 910.

Epcp_1104_01_o+all_purpose_krazy_glue+super_glue Photo 2/2   |   Super Glue - Icon

That’s because its inventor, Doctor Harry Coover, was working for Eastman Kodak when his revolutionary adhesive was patented. Here’s the funny thing: he wasn’t even looking for a glue when he made his discovery.

In 1942 (the same year he earned his M.S. in chemistry from Cornell), the 23-year-old Coover was researching clear plastics to be used as gun sights for troops in World War II. Working with cyanoacrylates, he found they were extremely sticky and needed no pressure or heat to bond. What happens is that they need water to set off the right chemical reaction. And every surface has some moisture on it; even air contains water, in the form of humidity. But that was no good for a gunsight, so Coover kept going.

By 1951, Coover was part of a team developing polymers from which to make canopies for jet airplanesthose clear, bubble-like enclosures. Exactly why a photographic company would be working on jet aircraft construction is a subject that might be classified, so we’ll have to gloss over that part and get back to the laboratory. Cyanoacrylates came up once again when a colleague, the aptly named Doctor Fred Joyner, stuck a couple of prisms together with the substance and couldn’t pry them apart. This time the idea stuck, so to speak.

Once the product was ready for the commercial market in 1958, it became Super Glue. Coover appeared in TV ads and on a game show (I’ve Got a Secret), lifting the host off the ground using a single drop. At last, precious items of chinaware could be rescued. Kids and husbands had a way to escape the wrath of the women in their lives.

Apart from the obvious household applications, Super Glue was capable of much more. There are many veterans of the Vietnam conflict who owe their lives to it. Cyanoacrylate can be applied to wounds. Field surgeons would spray it over the laceration where it would stop bleeding almost instantly. It helped stabilized stricken soldiers so they could be transported to medical facilities. This led to the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use cyanoacrylates in modern medicine, for sticking arteries back together, sealing ulcers and lesions, staunching blood flow from soft organs, and even applications in dentistry.

The late, great blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan used thick-gauge strings for a stronger sound. And playing blues guitar is all about bending strings, which does the fingertips no favors when they are as thick as SRV liked them. So he would apply Super Glue to the ends of his digits (and let it dry before he touched the guitar, of course). Hey presto, he was ready to bend all night.

This is clearly a powerful product. And with power comes responsibility. Not that such considerations stopped several vengeful women. One married man, who was seeing no less than three other women on the side, ended up being confronted by the whole angry quartet. They super-glued his, uh manhood to his stomach. In another case, a wronged lover (who might have inspired the use of the word crazy in relation to this product) fused her ex’s butt cheeks together. Sticking it to the man never seemed so chilling.

At last, precious items of chinaware could be rescued. Kids and husbands had a way to escape the wrath of the women in their lives.

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By Colin Ryan
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