Photo of Harry Coover

Harry Coover

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Medicine

For his invention of cyanoacrylates — novel adhesives known widely to consumers as “super glues” — which today play significant roles in medicine and industry.

Harry Coover on what sparked his interest in science

In 1942, during the second World War, scientist Harry Coover was charged with creating a material that could be used to make clear, plastic gun sights. But the task at hand turned out to be a sticky one—literally.

The substance he created was extremely adhesive, and as a result, researchers rejected it. Little did Coover know then, he had accidentally created one of today’s most common household items: Super Glue.

Nearly a decade after he created it, he showed his work to a young chemist who helped him realize the glue’s potential. Not only could it be used for household fixes or crafts, but it could also be used as a medical tool to close wounds.

“Serendipity gave me a second chance,” he said in an interview after receiving the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. “It probably is the single material that has more uses than any other material.”

By Sydni Dunn