of the vulcanization
process for rubber
. Born in New Haven
, CT, in 1800, he invented the process, which involves mixing rubber with sulfur
to keep it consistent at a wide range of temperatures, at Yale University
in 1839 but patented it only in 1844, with someone else in England having rediscovered it and beaten him to it in the meantime.
Another American infringed his patent anyway, once he got it, and the resulting court battle ate up his profits. He was in a Paris debtors' prison in 1855 when Emperor Napoleon III wanted to honour him; and his debts were at $190 000 when he died in 1860.