Charles Macintosh

1766 - 1843

Industrial chemist and entrepreneur. Macintosh was born and lived in Glasgow. He began by trading white lead, a constituent of paint, with the Netherlands. He went on to develop new dyeing and bleaching techniques and entered a partnership with Charles Tennant (1768 - 1838). However Macintosh is best remembered for developing the fabric which would be used in the rain-coat which bears his name.

While trying to find uses for the waste products generated by gasworks, Macintosh developed a process first discovered by surgeon James Syme (1799 - 1870). Naptha, which was extracted from coal-tar, was used as a solvent to adhere a natural latex rubber coating to cotton cloth. He patented this idea in 1823. This gave Macintosh a fabric with excellent water-proof properties which was used to cover wagons but also made into rainwear. Some ten years later, he set up the Charles Macintosh India Rubber Company in Manchester and started to make the waterproof coats with which his name is still associated. These coats are still produced in Cumbernauld by a successor company, which has traded as Mackintosh Ltd. since 1996 but was bought by the Japanese in 2007. Once worn by every policeman and railway-worker in Britain, these coats are now regarded as high-end fashion items.

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