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

William Montgomerie

saw usefulness of gutta percha

In 1843 Dr Montgomerie was Assistant Surgeon to the Presidency at Singapore when that outpost was first added to the empire of George IV.

He noticed that gum from trees of the genus Palaquium was used by native woodmen to make handles for parangs. He obtained samples and realising its usefulness for making surgical appliances sent samples to the Medical Board in Calcutta. He also sent samples to The Royal Society of Arts and by introducing this Malayan gum to the western world for the manufacture of surgical appliances he had placed in the hands of British industry the first really useful plastics material – gutta percha. A sample of gutta percha came into the hands of Thomas Hancock, he showed it to his brother Charles, a professional artist also interested in commercial projects, who was experimenting with bottle stoppers.

In 1845 Charles joined forces with a Dublin chemist, Henry Bewley, who had invented a special clamped stopper for soda water bottles. This was the beginning of the Gutta Percha Company, later to become the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company. Gutta percha had particular electrical and mechanical properties which made it suitable for submarine telegraph cables – the first cable being laid between England and France in 1850. No better material was found for this purpose until Polythene was discovered in the 1930s.