Charles Goodyear

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, on December 29, 1800, Charles Goodyear began his business life in his father's hardware business. When that venture failed in 1830, Goodyear turned his attention to making India rubber a useful commodity. Limited before then by its stickiness and vulnerability to heat, Goodyear was able to improve India rubber with a nitric acid treatment that he developed in 1836.

The great improvement came with "vulcanization," a process discovered by accident when some rubber mixed with sulphur was dropped on a hot stove. Goodyear received a patent for vulcanization in 1844, and through the new process, rubber became a practical component in many industrial applications.

Goodyear's patent was constantly infringed and although he was able to establish his legal ownership, he never prospered. When he died in New York City on July 1, 1860, he was a poor man. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, founded almost four decades later, had no connection with him apart from the name.