Hancock, Thomas

Hancock, Thomas
SUBJECT AREA: Chemical technology
b. 8 May 1786 Marlborough, Wiltshire, England
d. 26 March 1865 Stoke Newington, London, England
English founder of the British rubber industry.
After education at a private school in Marlborough, Hancock spent some time in "mechanical pursuits". He went to London to better himself and c.1819 his interest was aroused in the uses of rubber, which until then had been limited. His first patent, dated 29 April 1820, was for the application of rubber in clothing where some elasticity was useful, such as braces or slip-on boots. He noticed that freshly cut pieces of rubber could be made to adhere by pressure to form larger pieces. To cut up his imported and waste rubber into small pieces, Hancock developed his "masticator". This device consisted of a spiked roller revolving in a hollow cylinder. However, when rubber was fed in to the machine, the product was not the expected shredded rubber, but a homogeneous cylindrical mass of solid rubber, formed by the heat generated by the process and pressure against the outer cylinder. This rubber could then be compacted into blocks or rolled into sheets at his factory in Goswell Road, London; the blocks and sheets could be used to make a variety of useful articles. Meanwhile Hancock entered into partnership with Charles Macintosh in Manchester to manufacture rubberized, waterproof fabrics. Despite these developments, rubber remained an unsatisfactory material, becoming sticky when warmed and losing its elasticity when cold. In 1842 Hancock encountered specimens of vulcanized rubber prepared by Charles Goodyear in America. Hancock worked out for himself that it was made by heating rubber and sulphur, and obtained a patent for the manufacture of the material on 21 November 1843. This patent also included details of a new form of rubber, hardened by heating to a higher temperature, that was later called vulcanite, or ebonite. In 1846 he began making solid rubber tyres for road vehicles. Overall Hancock took out sixteen patents, covering all aspects of the rubber industry; they were a leading factor in the development of the industry from 1820 until their expiry in 1858.
1857, Personal Narrative of the Origin and Progress of the Caoutchouc or Indiarubber Manufacture in England, London.
Further Reading
H.Schurer, 1953, "The macintosh: the paternity of an invention", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 28:77–87.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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