The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

21 November 2002

Bound to rebound

Dr. Earl Leathen Warrick, one of the "founding fathers", if you will, of Dow Corning, has died in Orange County, California.

Warrick, born in 1911 in Butler, Pennsylvania, devoted his career to polymers and elastomers; he invented silicone rubber and held, singly or jointly, 44 US patents.

It was a failed experiment, though, that perhaps brought Warrick his greatest fame. During World War II, Warrick and fellow researcher Rob Roy McGregor were trying to work up a synthetic rubber that could serve as a workable substitute in the wake of wartime shortages. "3179 Dilatant Compound" really wasn't suitable for tires or weatherstripping, but it did have quite a bounce to it, and they took it home to the kids. Dow Corning had no particular interest in selling children's playthings, so it was left for some astute marketing type to buy up lots of the stuff, seal it into little plastic eggs, and spread it across the land, where you and I eventually spread it across the Sunday funnies.

You can still buy Silly Putty today; in fact, you can buy Dow Corning's original 3179 Dilatant (call it Sensible Putty) directly from their Midland, Texas facility — if you're prepared to order at least two 50-lb cartons.

Posted at 7:22 AM to Almost Yogurt