Otters Oddities

Ooh! Tis a wee little leprechaun, looking to steal me Lucky Charms!

Just kidding. He's not a leprechaun. He's not even Irish. But then, Neither is St. Patricks Day.

That man is one of the worlds most unintentionally evil people to ever live.

And, I say unintentionally evil because, he didn't realize how bad his discoveries were. At least, not right away.

He is Thomas Midgley Jr. And he is the man who invented Tetraethyl Lead. Or, the additive used in gas making it leaded. He also invented a safer refrigerant. Too bad it was Chloroflurocarbons.

While he did come to learn his leaded additive was dangerous, causing lead poisoning with extended exposure, he didn't know the extent of the damage he had done. He never knew the lead stayed in the atmosphere, raising the lead levels in humans until someone, (Claire Patterson), got leaded gas, and tetraethyl lead, (TEL), banned.

Tom never found out that cfc's were bad for the ozone layer. He died, (from a bed turning rig he invented), before that damage was discovered.

But, the story of Thomas Midgley is well known. And today is Monday. Which means, it's time for Made Up Mondays!

So why did I start a Made Up Monday with someone who many people know about?

Because today's post isn't about Midgley. At least, not directly.

And that brings up tot the section where you get to guess if I'm full of it, or if I'm full of it but telling the truth anyway.

Midgley had a long career of creating, but he didn't work alone. He had an assistant. A man 20 years his junior named Arthur Sinclair. Sinclair was fresh out of college, and was looking for some work. When given the chance to work with Midgley, he jumped at it.

Sinclair joined the team after TEL was invented and about the time cfc's were coming into wide usage in refrigeration. Sinclair took over the daily running of the lab, as Midgley was busy promoting his cfc's, and trying to convince people TEL wasn't as dangerous as some thought it was.

Sinclair conducted his own research and came up with a method of extruding polystyrene into a closed celled foam.

Well, to be more accurate, he bought the rights to the patents of a Swedish chemist who had toyed with the method, but did nothing with it.

This allowed Sinclair to develop something he called, Styrofoam. While playing with it, he found that there were many applications for his foam. But neither Sinclair or Midgley had the resources to market it to industry. Whereas TEL and cfc's had singular uses, Styrofoam had hundreds of uses. They didn't know how to capitalize on that. So, in 1941, about the time Midgley was confined to his bed by polio, Sinclair sold his patents for Styrofoam to Dow Chemical.

Dow did have the resources to market Styrofoam, and market it they did. Within a decade, Styrofoam was everywhere. And it still is.

It wasn't bad enough that Midgley produces TEL which poisoned everyone with lead, and cfc's that eat our protection from the sun, but his employee, using his lab, created Styrofoam. A substance that will never degrade, no matter how long you give it.

Styrofoam produced today will stay exactly the way it is for ever, unless someone does something to it to alter it. It's not biodegradable. It has a longer half life than plutonium.

Plus, it causes cancer.

Thanks Arthur.

Now, your job is to decide, did Thomas Midgleys lab assistant, Arthur Sinclair, create Styrofoam?

Stay tuned for the answer tomorrow.

No, you don't have to actually stay tuned to this page. Just come back in 24 hours, and the answer will magically appear in a new post. A post about....something. I know what it is, but you don't. You have to wait until tomorrow. But I know it's one you will read and then go, "Huh....I always wondered about that.".