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 History of rubber

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PostSubject: History of rubber   Thu 30 Apr 2015, 21:04

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PostSubject: Re: History of rubber   Thu 15 Jun 2017, 22:27

Quote :
In 1876, the British smuggled out rubber-tree seeds from Amazonia to the Botanical Gardens in London.

A popular myth which is so often repeated. At best it's a half truth. Exporting rubber seeds from the Brazilian Empire was not illegal. Nor has it ever been illegal in Brazil either before or since. It is possible that Henry Wickham took the seeds from private property without permission (i.e. stole them) but even that's not proven. It's a jolly good yarn though and no doubt Wickham was banking on the good copy. If the seeds themselves failed to make him rich then at least selling the story would provide some earnings.
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Meles meles

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PostSubject: Re: History of rubber   Fri 16 Jun 2017, 10:50

@Vizzer wrote:
Exporting rubber seeds from the Brazilian Empire was not illegal. Nor has it ever been illegal in Brazil either before or since.

Even so I wonder, had the Brazilian authorities been aware that the whole intention was to break the lucrative Brazilian monopoly of rubber, would they not have taken some action to try and stop Wickham. That said it is difficult to see how he managed to obtain the 70,000 seeds, (estimated, with their packing and crates, to have weighed at least a ton) without attracting some attention. The rubber plants in Brazil were not in managed plantations but as wild trees often widely spaced amongst other forest trees, and the ripe seeds do not fall but are jettisoned over a wide area when the seed pod splits. Accordingly Wickham must have put word out to numerous local communities throughout the region that he would buy up any seeds people could gather ... he certainly didn't collect them himself.

The Director of the Botanic Gardens in Singapore, Henry Ridley, and the person who more than any other worked to develop rubber plantations in Malaysia, said of Wickham, “I looked on him as a failed planter who was lucky in that for merely travelling home with a lot of seeds had received a knighthood and enough money to live comfortably in his old age…..He ordered natives to bring him in the seeds and to pack them in crates and put them on board ship. One cannot help feeling he was jolly well paid for a little job. He was no agriculturalist, he knew nothing about rubber and cared not for it…. As for his abilities in planting I should say he had none”.

I recall from when I was studying materials science that the same active chemical in the latex of rubber trees, polyisoprene, also occurs in the milky latex of lettuces and dandelions. In WW2, Germany, cut off from most supplies of rubber in SE Asia, put a lot of effort into producing rubber from ordinary dandelions, but it wasn't feasible. However I now see (2013) that a pilot plant is up and running: Science Daily - Making rubber from dandelion juice

Last edited by Meles meles on Fri 16 Jun 2017, 13:14; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: History of rubber   Fri 16 Jun 2017, 13:08

There is an article here about the production of synthetic rubber in WW2:

Synthetic Rubber

"President Franklin D. Roosevelt was well aware of U.S. vulnerability because of its dependence on threatened supplies of natural rubber, and in June 1940, he formed the Rubber Reserve Company (RRC). The RRC set objectives for stockpiling rubber, conserving the use of rubber in tires by setting speed limits, and collecting scrap rubber for reclamation.

The onset of World War II cut off U.S. access to 90 percent of the natural rubber supply. At this time, the United States had a stockpile of about one million tons of natural rubber, a consumption rate of about 600,000 tons per year, and no commercial process to produce a general purpose synthetic rubber. Conserving, reclaiming, and stockpiling activities could not fill the gap in rubber consumption.

After the loss of the natural rubber supply, the RRC called for an annual production of 400,000 tons of general purpose synthetic rubber to be manufactured by the four large rubber companies. On December 19, 1941, Jersey Standard, Firestone, Goodrich, Goodyear, and United States Rubber Company signed a patent and information sharing agreement under the auspices of the RRC."
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