Hancock

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Hancock 2016-12-06T05:35:22+00:00

Thomas Hancock

developed
Vulcanite

Thomas Hancock was born in 1786. He began experimenting with natural rubber in 1819, and in the following year rented a factory in Goswell Road, London working raw rubber with machinery of his own invention – machines which may be regarded as the prototype of the rubber mill and mixer.

In 1826 he made a working agreement with Charles Mackintosh and Company for the manufacture of waterproof garments in Manchester.

In 1843 Hancock took out a patent for the vulcanisation of rubber using suplhur, one month ahead of Goodyear in the USA. However, in his personal narrative of 1856, Hancock does not credit himself with discovering the reaction of sulphur with rubber. He tells that, in 1842 a friend, William Brockendon showed him some American samples of rubber which had been treated with sulphur to improve its properties. He also mentions that this friend invented the word vulcanisation from Vulcan of mythology, representing the use of sulphur and heat.

Hancock’s major contribution was that he developed the necessary machinery for processing rubber. Goodyear who discovered sulphur vulcanisation had little interest in machine development, being more concerned with the uses of rubber.

Hard rubber, also called vulcanite or ebonite may be regarded as the first semi-synthetic plastics material. It was popular for dental plates, Vesta match cases, pens and imitation jet or mourning jewellery – mainly in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries although it was in use until the 1940s.