- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Charles Macintosh

Born  1766
Died  1843

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Scottish chemist, born December 29, 1766, Glasgow; died July 25, 1843, near Glasgow.

Biography of Charles Macintosh

Charles Macintosh, industrial chemist and entrepreneur, began his business career by trading white lead, a constituent of paint, with the Netherlands. He went on to develop new dyeing and bleaching techniques and entered a partnership with Charles Tennant (1768¬-1838), who ran a cloth bleaching business in Paisley. In 1799 they took out a patent for the manufacture of a dry bleaching powder made from chlorine and slaked lime.

Working in association with Professor Thomas Thomson (1773-1852) of Glasgow University, Macintosh was seeking an outlet for the waste products from the new coal gas industry, and saw that coal tar naphtha formed an excellent solvent. Soon after he patented the method in 1823, Macintosh began the manufacture of coats and other garments. This was especially beneficial before vulcanisation as the textile protected the rubber. Waterproof textiles could now be produced on a large scale, initially in Glasgow and later in Manchester and the eponymous raincoat was invented.

But problems developed. In the process of seaming a garment, tailors punctured the fabric, allowing rain to penetrate; the natural oil in woollen cloth caused the rubber cement to deteriorate; and, in the earlier years, the garments became stiff in winter and sticky in hot weather. The mackintosh, as it came to be known, was greatly improved when vulcanised rubber, which resisted temperature changes, became available in 1839. This process was invented by Charles Goodyear (180-1860) and revolutionized the rubber industry.

For a period Macintosh was in partnership with Hugh Birley (1778-1845), a cotton manufacturer from Manchester and in 1921 began cooperating with Thomas Hancock, an English inventor who founded the British rubber industry. Hancock invented the masticator, a machine that shredded rubber scraps, allowing rubber to be recycled after being formed into blocks or rolled into sheets. He was also an important contributor to the development of the waterproof material. In 1830 Hancock had perfected a process to make raw rubber pliable. He contributed his knowledge of the use of vulcanized rubber, which solved the problems of stickiness or stiffness with temperature changes. From 1834 he was Macintosh's partner and headed the company, Charles Macintosh & Co.

We thank Claire Fuller for information submitted.

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