James Wright (inventor)

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James Wright was an engineer at General Electric who invented Silly Putty in 1943.

The invention of Bouncy Putty that was later renamed Silly Putty happened accidentally. During World War II, the United States couldn't obtain natural rubber from Asian suppliers, who gathered it from rubber trees. General Electric was trying to find a way to supply rubber for truck tires and soldiers boots. James Wright, an engineer at General Electric, was working with silicone oil-a clear, gooey compound composed of silicon bonded to several other elements. By substituting silicon for carbon, the main element in rubber, Wright hoped to create a new compound with all the flexibility and bounce of rubber.

In 1943, Wright made a surprising discovery. He mixed boric acid with silicone oil in a test tube. Instead of forming the hard rubber material he was looking for, the compound remained slightly gooey to the touch. Disappointed with the results, he tossed a gob of the material from the test tube onto the floor. To his surprise, the gob bounced right back at Wright. The new compound was very bouncy and could be stretched and pulled. However, it wasn't a good rubber substitute, so Wright and other GE scientists continued their search.

Seven years after this event, a toy seller named Peter Hodgson packaged some of Wright's creation in a small plastic egg and presented his new product at the 1950 International Toy Fair in NY. The material was to be called Silly Putty, and it proved to be popular. Millions of eggs containing the starch has been sold to kids of all ages since. Rubber and boric acid are substances with very different properties. This was James Wright's greatest highlight of his career. Its first name was Nutty Putty but changed later due to marketing concerns. It is now called silly Putty; it was actually one of the most sold items in 1949.

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