On this day, May 8 in the year 1786, Thomas Hancock was born in Wiltshire, England. He is considered as the founder of the British rubber industry. As a self-taught engineer, he invented a masticating machine to shred rubber scraps and allow the rubber to be recycled after being formed into blocks or sheets.
Hancock was the third of twelve children. As a boy, he learned cabinet making from his father. Later, he joined his younger brother Walter in making coaches which probably led him to look for better waterproofing agent. This started his interest in rubber. In 1820, he received a patent for making elastic fabrics such as gloves, suspenders, shoes and stockings using rubber springs or fastenings. In the same year he built his first factory in London using the rubber masticator that he invented. Thus, the rubber industry in Great Britain was born.
In 1823, Hancock partnered with another inventor, Charles Macintosh, to manufacture waterproof items. Two years later, he patented a process of making artificial leather using rubber solutions. In 1843, Hancock took out a patent for the vulcanization of rubber using sulphur. (Charles Goodyear received his vulcanization patent in the United States 8 weeks later.)
Between 1920 and 1847, Hancock was granted a total of 16 patents. He died in 1865 in London at the age of 78.