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History of Rubber

NATURAL RUBBER

Rubber originates from a tree, named Hevea Braziliensis. It was discovered around 1497 by Europeans finding the local people of (now known as) South America using an elastic substance for various purposes.

It was however only around 1736 that Charles de la Condamine made a serious attempt to further investigate this material.
In 1762 was it discovered that rubber would dissolve in turpentine and could be utilized in solution form, and when the first thoughts of actually using it constructively came to mind.
This substance was given the name RUBBER around 1770 when Joseph Priestly discovered that it could erase pencil by a "rubbing" action

Towards the end of the 1700's and beginning 1800's did many products appear, some more successful than others, especially for producing waterproof garments but all products suffered from the same problem, nl. it remained sticky, and degraded very quickly and became smelly.

It was however the first time such an elastic substance had become known to man, prior to that was there nothing else quite like it.

It was virtually similtanously discovered around 1839 by Charles Goodyear in (North) America and patented in 1843 by Thomas Hancock in England, that the addition of a small amount of Sulphur and subsequent heat treatment solved the problem of degradation, a process which is even today still referred to as curing, but also more aptly named vulcanisation after the greek God of fire. In more scientific terms is this more aptly described as Crosslinking
This boosted the use of rubber as a viable product, since for the first time could it be made into a more suitable form fit for use.

This elastic substance is actually the sap of the tree (called Latex, being a suspension of rubber particles in water), which was obtained by simply cutting down the tree and pressing the sap out, and left to congeal or coagulate.
Instead of destroying the tree to obtain this substance, was a system developed of instead tapping the sap which involved making a spiral cut in the bark of the tree and catching the sap at the bottom of the tree in a small container. Although very small quantities are obtained in this manner, approx. 50 mls per day, does it allow the tree to produce for a long period .... from 10 to 20 years.

Now that the importance of rubber was recognised, were seeds of the tree around 1876 transported by Henry Wickham to Europe in an attempt to grow the trees locally, but due to climate differences was it not successful. However, trees were successfully cultivated in other tropic parts of the world around the equator, in particular South East Asia.

Rubber today is a major commodity, which uses have proliferated over the last 100 years, and which the world can barely do without. Major products include (at the top of the list) vehicle tyres which burst onto the scene with the development of the internal combustion engine and subsequent automobile, but ranging over a wide spectrum of products that utilize the elastic and many other useful properties of rubber.