Inventors: Charles Macintosh

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By John Davisteacher and freelance writer

The chemist, Charles Macintosh, is included in the 2014 Science curriculum. Find out more about this inventor and investigate waterproofing with your class.

Charles Macintosh

About Charles Macintosh

The pioneering work carried out by a Scottish chemist proved to be so important that the name ‘Macintosh’ became the English word for a waterproof raincoat.

Charles Macintosh was born in Glasgow in 1766. He worked on a number of successful chemical processes in his early career. It was in 1819, while experimenting with the waste products from a gasworks, that he discovered that rubber would dissolve in a coal-tar product called naptha. When this solution was painted onto pieces of woollen cloth and then pressed together, Macintosh found they produced a fabric that was not only waterproof but was flexible enough to make into clothing.

The invention was patented in 1823 and Macintosh and his business partner, Thomas Hancock, soon started manufacturing coats, first in Glasgow and later in Manchester. Improvements were later made to cut down the rubbery smell of the coats and make them more resistant to temperature change.


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