Happy Accidents #040 - Super Glue
Super sticky serendipity
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When it comes to sticking things together, few products are as universally reliable as super glue. But did you know that this handy adhesive was born out of a serendipitous twist in a Kodak chemistry lab?
In this week's Happy Accidents newsletter, we'll uncover the unexpected origins of this household staple and how it went from a wartime experiment to an essential tool for DIY enthusiasts everywhere.
Let's dig in, shall we?
SETTING THE STAGE
This is the part of every Happy Accident story where we see every successful outcome starts with the person putting themselves in a favorable position. They work hard, they try new things, they meet new people. They're not just sitting around 'hoping' to be successful some day.
Kodak, founded by George Eastman in 1888, was a pioneer in the field of photography and renowned for their innovations in the industry.
In fact, they developed the first ever roll-film camera that was easy to use for the general public.
But during the turmoil of World War II, Kodak was looking to pioneer a different type of innovation.
Dr. Harry Coover, a chemist at Kodak, and his team were tasked with developing clear plastic gun sights for the war effort. While they diligently worked on their mission, they stumbled upon something entirely different.
In their experiments, they inadvertently created a substance that defied their control, sticking to everything it touched! (Side note: I may or may not have super glued my fingers together a time or two over the years.)
THE HAPPY ACCIDENT
This is the part of every success story where there's a chance encounter, a serendipitous moment, an unintentional discovery (or Happy Accident) that paves the way for the next steps. In some cases, a Happy Accident can even be disguised as something bad in the moment.
Although the substance didn't serve its intended purpose for gun sights, it didn't take long for Dr. Coover and his team to recognize its unique potential.
This serendipitous discovery, a quick-drying, ultra-strong adhesive, would soon be known as "Super Glue."
This accidental invention marked a turning point in adhesive technology.
Just like Happy Accidents don't just fall into your lap (you need to set the stage first), they also don't turn into anything if you don't recognize them and take action. This is the part of every success story where we see people capitalizing on their Happy Accident.
Since it didn’t serve their immediate need at the time, this new super adhesive was put on the shelf at the time.
In fact, it wasn't until 1958 that Eastman Kodak Company introduced Super Glue to the commercial market.
This new adhesive's ability to bond almost anything in seconds captured the public's imagination.
Millions of bottles of super glue are now sold around the world today and its uses have quickly expanded from household repairs to medical applications, crafting, woodworking, and more.
Needless to say, this accidental discovery led to a versatile and indispensable product…and likely more than a few ‘sticky’ situations (like my fingers 😅).
P.S. If you should ever happen to super glue your fingers together, here’s a quick video that will help you!
TOO LONG; DIDN’T READ (TL;DR)
During World War II, Dr. Harry Coover and his team at Kodak were attempting to create clear plastic gun sights but accidentally invented a powerful adhesive that stuck to everything.
Recognizing its potential, they introduced it as "Super Glue" to the commercial market in 1958, revolutionizing adhesive technology and making it an essential tool for various applications, from household repairs to medical uses.
Some fun facts:
Super Glue is actually a brand name for cyanoacrylate adhesive. Other popular brands include Krazy Glue, Gorilla Glue, and Loctite.
Tens of millions of tubes and bottles of super glue are sold worldwide each year.
Its quick-drying and strong bonding properties make it a favorite for tasks ranging from fixing broken ceramics to dental applications.
It was Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera in 1975. Kodak killed the idea and later regretted that decision immensely.
Kodak eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012 after several missed opportunities in the digital photography industry.
The lessons here:
Embrace experimentation: Sometimes, the best discoveries come from thinking outside the box and being open to unexpected results in your experiments.
Adapt to change: Dr. Coover's team didn't discard their creation when it didn't meet their initial goal. Instead, they recognized its potential for something entirely different.
Seize opportunities: When life hands you a happy accident, be prepared to capitalize on it. Super Glue's creators recognized its value and introduced it to the market, changing the way the world sticks things together.
YOUR Happy Accidents
Check out this post on LinkedIn from Maurice Philogene about how he became an accidental solopreneur in 2022.
Or this one from Jill Valdez about how a series of happy accidents has littered her path.
Hey, Dennis Geelen here. Author of the Happy Accidents newsletter.
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