Today in 1766 saw the birth of Charles Macintosh, the inventor of waterproof clothing, in Glasgow.
Although he was supposed to become a merchant, like his father, and first began to work as a clerk with a Glasgow merchant, Macintosh harboured an early passion for chemistry and science, which he studied in his spare time.
By the time he was 20, he turned to chemical manufacturing full time and in 1797 he opened the first alum works in Scotland.
The plant produced ammonium chloride and Prussian blue dye.
Macintosh also introduced the manufacture of lead and aluminum acetates to Britain, and developed new processes to dye cloth with David Dale, a Scottish merchant and businessman.
It was in 1818, whilst trying to find a use for the waste products generated by the gasworks that Macintosh used a volatile liquid hydrocarbon mixture called naphtha and discovered that it dissolved rubber and joined to sheets of fabric together with it, allowed them to dry and discovered that the new material could not be pentrated by water.
He took out a patent for this invention in 1823 and the material was then introduced in 1824 as ‘Mackintosh’ (with an additional K).
Macintosh founded his own waterproofing company in Glasgow in 1834, primarily because of the opposition he faced from tailors, who wanted little to do with the material.
He then moved to Manchester in 1840 to exploit the material further and within a year had a flourishing factory which produced rainproofs for the British military and general puvlic.
The factory is now owned by the Dunlop Rubber Company.
Other acheivements included inventing a revolutionary blaching power alongside Charles Tennant, a fellow Scottish chemist and industrialist, discovering a faster method of using carbon gases to convert iron to steel and devising a hotblast process which produced high quality cast iron with Scottish inventor, James Neilson.
Macintosh was honored for his contributions to chemistry by his election in 1823 as a fellow of the Royal Society.
However he was most well known for his invention of waterproof clothing, in particular the water proof garment that bears his name.
By 1836 the eponymously titled raincoats, ‘Mackintoshes’ were hugely popular and the term ‘plastic mac’ is still used for a waterproof coat till today.
Macintosh died in 1843 in Dunchattan, neraby to his native hometown in Glasgow.