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Random Genius: Superglue


It's sticky, it's awesome - but try not to get it in your eyes.

Everyone knows that many common household items -- cups, saucers, your autographed, ceramic, one-of-a-kind bust of Carrot Top -- can be fixed with the help of Superglue.

But did you know that the miracle stickum can also be used to repair elephant tusks, space shuttles, and catastrophic open wounds? Seriously.

A Kodak (K) scientist named Harry Coover came up with the formulation during World War II while searching for a way to make plastic gun-sight lenses. Coover rejected it out of hand because it was, well, "too sticky."

The compound, called cyanoacrylate, was first brought to the market as "Flash Glue" in February 1955, patented in 1956, and developed into a adhesive branded as Eastman 910 in 1958.

Professor Vernon Kreible of Trinity College, Hartford further developed the compound. His passion for it made him perhaps the first and last adhesive impresario, a kind of glue guru. Kreible made frequent television appearances, despite being constitutionally unable to talk about anything but just how darn sticky this stuff really was.

Kreible was not, however, a branding genius: He called his product "liquid locknut" and marketed it as a solution to the age-old problem of loose nuts and bolts. In a characteristic fit of mind-bending cluelessness, Kreible allowed himself to be christened "The Man Who Beat Vibration."

Minyanville's Random Genius (Women's shops that specialize in the sale of pleasurably vibrating "personal massagers" tell campfire stories about Kreible to this day, half-afraid that he may still be roaming the countryside, desperate for revenge.)

In 1959, the new glue became a sensation after being demonstrated on the TV show I've Got a Secret: Host Garry Moore was lifted into the air by 2 massive steel plates held together with a single drop of the "miraculous" Eastman 910. Eastman 910 is still available -- though under the Superglue brand name -- from the Superglue Corporation of Rancho Cucamonga, California.

But the adhesive's astounding ability to stick things to other things can be used for evil, as well as for good. For every life that Superglue saved on the battlefields of Vietnam, there's a story about some genius who starved to death after accidentally gluing his teeth together.

This phenomenon -- in which a person causes him- or herself grievous bodily harm by putting the sticky stuff in places the good Lord never intended it to go -- is apparently common enough to have a name in the medical literature: "Inadvertent self-administration of Superglue." Some consumer groups have even demanded that it be repackaged, since the glue comes in a tube seemingly designed to be indistinguishable from those in which lip balm, eye drops, and ear drops are carried. You do the math.

Of course, there are worse places to find Superglue on one's person.

Take Kenneth Slaby of Pittsburgh: Slaby had ended his 10-month relationship with his girlfriend, Gail O'Toole, in order to date the woman he'd been cheating on her with. Despite this, Slaby still thought it was a good idea to swing by O'Toole's house late one May night in 2000 to get his freak on.

The next morning, after the pause that refreshes, Slaby woke to find that his buttocks had been Superglued together; the same wonder adhesive had been used to securely affix Dick and the Twins to his abdomen. A word not generally used in polite company had been written in scarlet nail polish on his back.

This doesn't seem quite what Coover had in mind for his wonder glue. But then again, he's a complicated man. There's no way to know for sure.
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