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Maurice Ward holding a blowtorch to a sheet of Starlite.
Maurice Ward was an English inventor best known for his invention of Starlite, a thermal shielding material. He was a former hairdresser from Yorkshire, England. His demand that he keep 51% ownership of the formula for Starlite, and belief that the technology was worth billions of dollars, stunted its commercial success.
Maurice Ward worked as a hairdresser during the 1960s, and he took pride in his work. He once said in an interview, "What L'Oreal and Garnier are doing today, I was doing 50 years ago. And they still haven't got it right." He was a tinkerer, and liked to invent things in his spare time. This hobby led to him purchasing an extruder from ICI during the early 1980s.
It was this purchase that led to the invention of the material Starlite. This invention was inspired by the Manchester Air Crash in 1985, during which 55 people aboard the plane died in 40 seconds due to toxic smoke inhalation. He invented the material after ICI requested a material for Citroën bonnets. The material that Ward extruded was a failure, and it was granulated and forgotten about, until the aforementioned air crash, at which point Ward became inspired. "It interested me because it was an air disaster on the ground, and because it was the smoke and toxicity that killed people, not the fire. Fifty-five people died in 40 seconds. We thought we'd like to find something that doesn't burn very much, that would be useful.", Ward mentioned in an interview.
He began to try to mix different formulations of heat-resistant, non-toxic plastics, which he casually referred to as "Gubbins." He was highly productive in this, mixing up to 20 formulations a day. Eventually, he produced a formulation that seemed promising, and used the Extruder he had bought years before to make it into sheets. He tested it with a blowtorch, and it dissipated the heat perfectly. This is the material that became known as Starlite.
This invention gained much publicity in the 1990s, after he was featured on the British television series Tomorrow's World, holding a blowtorch directly to an egg that had been coated in Starlite. After five minutes under direct contact with the flame, the egg was cracked open, revealing a completely raw egg inside. The invention worked so well that the egg had not even begun to cook.
Maurice Ward died in May 2011.