Rubber - History of Rubber


Rubber is a substance that has great use in today's society. It assists in construction, forms the structure for tires, and even supports the soles of shoes. However, since it's identification around three millennia ago, rubber has been greatly developed into the modern substance familiar today.

First identified and collected in Central and South American in about 1600 B.C.E., the earliest rubber was mainly used for games. Harvested from a plant, these ancient peoples formed balls with the substance, and used these balls for primitive bouncing games.

Although games were the primary use for rubber at the time, traces of the substance have also been found in the construction of metal and stone tools, used mainly to hold these materials to a wooden handle. Over time these early humans discovered that rubber was waterproof, and could be used to create water resistant clothing. When Europeans first came in contact with rubber, they were so shocked by its properties they thought it was witchcraft.

However, by 1770 rubber had been introduced into English society by Joseph Priestley. He had noticed that rubber was able to rub out pencil markings, therefore giving it the name "rubber". As its consumption grew in these Western countries, the demand for the product intensified. Therefore, the South American and African forests that grew the rubber tree were unfortunately ravished by the local people who were forced into the backbreaking labor of harvesting the substance. Eventually, rubber cultivation was transported to Southeast Asia, where it still grown today.

Unfortunately, the natural form of rubber is sticky, crumbly, and smelly, therefore its use was limited throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Due to its increased demand, especially for motor vehicle tires, the introduction of a special type of sulfur based rubber processing, called vulcanization, was introduced in 1844 by Charles Goodyear. Soon thereafter synthetic rubber was invented as a way to keep up with the demand for sturdy rubber products.

Today, there have been numerous additional advancements in the procurement, processing, and production of rubber throughout the world. Used in industry, vehicle manufacturing, and in securing other types of smaller mechanical parts, rubber continues to be a necessary component of modern life.

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