Maurice Ward holding a blowlamp to a sheet of Starlite.
|Died||2011 (aged 77–78)|
|Occupation||Inventor and hairdresser|
Maurice Ward was an English inventor best known for his invention of Starlite, a thermal shielding material. He was a former hairdresser from Hartlepool, County Durham, England. Ward believed he should not sell his material directly or allow unsupervised research due to the potential for reverse engineering, and he maintained that he should keep 51% ownership of the formula for Starlite because he valued the material to be worth billions; this is believed to have stunted its commercial success. Starlite is considered by many to be a lost invention, a technology which might have revolutionised the world of aerospace and materials science. Thermashield, LLC claims to have purchased the secret formula and all rights from Maurice's widow Eileen in 2013.
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 plane fire 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.
- George, Rose (15 April 2009). "Starlite, the nuclear blast-defying plastic that could change the world". The Daily Telegraph.
- Ward, Maurice (5 March 2009). "Hello One and All". Maurice Ward. Blogger.
- Keene, Jamie (17 May 2012). "Starlite: the miracle material that could be lost forever". The Verge. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
- Ward, Maurice. on YouTube. 4 March 2009.