Based mostly on his exceptional career as an inventor and the immeasurable but large worth of three creations of his to businesses and hundreds of thousands of individuals — a greater golf ball, fuel masks, and the economic adhesive Vulcalock — it appears there ought to be a historic marker at William Geer’s birthplace and perhaps a museum wing up north, or at the least an exhibit that includes his story. And that’s with out even considering his biggest invention of all: the airplane-wing deicer.
That’s right, a North Nation man, born and raised, did that. In contrast to many innovations which might be utterly replaced by higher options in the future, Geer’s system originating almost 90 years in the past stays a normal, as famous in trendy B. F. Goodrich Technical Bulletin 101: “Then, as right now, the ice removing course of is far the same…. the essential operating principle of the pneumatic de-icing boot hasn’t modified.”
Icing was a non-issue within the early days of flight when pilots flew comparatively close to the bottom, guided by landmarks that have been visible and identifiable from lower elevations. In the 1920s, as instrument flying turned extra widespread, planes incessantly traveled at larger altitudes, the place some clouds brought about icing, typically with tragic outcomes.
That drawback, badly in need of solving, was addressed in 1928 by a meeting of prime representatives from the Bureau of Standards, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the US Army Air Corps, the US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, and the Climate Bureau. Their discussions touched on the work of William Geer, officially retired after a profession of analysis and inventing for B. F. Goodrich, however still on the board of directors and persevering with to perform analysis, much of it on behalf of the company.
A yr earlier in his own laboratory, Geer, aware of failed makes an attempt by others using numerous materials and ice-retardants, had begun in search of solutions to the icing drawback. His efforts showed such promise that in 1929, the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics awarded him a $10,000 grant ($147,000 in 2019) to additional pursue his work.
Persistence performed a task within the end result, for Geer, one of the world’s specialists on rubber, noticed its potential as a key element of deicing. Using a small-scale icing-research tunnel constructed at Cornell, he tested dozens of chemical compounds and chemical mixes for compatibility with rubber. Many with potential have been nonetheless found lacking, however he finally landed on a mixture that was close—not stopping the formation of ice, however drastically retarding it. Whereas some still shaped, it was easily dislodged by the touch of a screwdriver. However the query remained: earlier than it collected to dangerous levels, learn how to successfully and constantly take away the fragile layers of ice that shaped while a aircraft was in flight?
Geer’s answer was “a pneumatic overshoe” that match over the vanguard of a wing. The gadget, which turned higher referred to as a boot, contained hollow, inflatable tubes. In principle, the handled rubber allowed the formation of thin layers of ice, which might be cracked by increasing the versatile rubber by way of periodic inflation of the tubes. The ultimate part was easy: wind towards the rushing aircraft simply blew the ice chunks away. In fact, that was all in principle, with no assure it might show practical.
But that’s precisely what happened. A number of check flights confirmed that the boot carried out as planned and didn’t have an effect on the aircraft’s handling. Goodrich constructed a large, refrigerated wind tunnel, the place Geer’s invention was tested, tweaked, and fine-tuned. During other checks on the ground, the cracked ice was removed by wind from the aircraft’s propeller. Ultimately, via in depth trial and error, an excellent working mannequin was achieved: a timer-activated, motorized pump in the cockpit inflated the tubes and cracked the ice, which blew away. In a assessment many years later, the New York Occasions wrote, “Newspaper stories at the time hailed the invention as ‘a victory over one of the aviator’s most dangerous enemies, the ice that types on the wings of his airplane and typically causes it to be wrecked.’”
In early April 1930, the Buffalo Evening News commented on the current developments: “The check flight was made at Cleveland airport on March 18, 1930. When a coating of ice half an inch thick had been amassed from the ice-laden clouds, air was applied with a hand pump and the ice broke off in big chunks. Additional check flights confirmed the principle as sound…. The mechanical gadget … has not been perfected, and in response to Dr. Geer, there’s a lot to be carried out along strains of design. The elemental rules, nevertheless, have been labored out to such an extent that Dr. Geer is optimistic over the way forward for the system.” He was definitely right in that regard, for the essential system stays in use right now. (The link results in many brief, trendy videos demonstrating his technique in action.)
Like a few of Geer’s different inventions, the influence worldwide was and is very large, but in addition unimaginable to calculate. And like all inventor, he was by no means really finished working on a venture. Among his many patents filed through the ensuing 20 years have been a number of that improved upon methods of aircraft deicing.
Apart from the innovations addressed here have been many others patented by Geer: making and shaping numerous rubber compositions; the pelleting of carbon black (thought-about a big achievement); a rubber filter sheet for industrial use; gas-impervious sheet material for making hot-air balloons and other lighter-than-air craft; and an ageing oven (they’re still extensively bought) that performs an essential process for researchers and inventors — accurate ageing simulations of rubber, plastic, textiles, leather-based, medical products, and other supplies. Because it was first created in 1916, Geer’s oven has often been cited in different inventors’ patent purposes with the phrase, “Accelerated getting old exams have been carried out in the Geer getting older oven.”
At no time throughout his life, regardless of many outstanding accomplishments, was Geer ever thought-about a high-profile individual, but the spotlight sometimes found him. In 1922, as a acknowledged chief in the subject of rubber research and a vice-president of B. F. Goodrich, he wrote a e-book, The Reign of Rubber, overlaying all the things from tapping timber to rubber’s position in trendy business. Maintaining lifelong ties together with his Potsdam classmates, he ultimately turned government chairman of the New York Alumni of the Potsdam Normal Faculty. In 1940, the National Affiliation of Producers, citing his outstanding contributions to industrial analysis and improvement, introduced him with a National Pioneer Award. In August 1951, Geer, a wealthy man, donated gear to Cornell for the newly established William C. Geer Laboratory of Rubber and Plastics. A month later, he was introduced the distinguished Charles Goodyear Medal for outstanding achievements within the chemistry of rubber.
His research and innovations laid the groundwork for a lot of trendy purposes involving rubber. Geer and/or his achievements from almost a century in the past are still ceaselessly cited at present, together with these few examples: the UTC Aerospace Techniques bulletin titled, “Give Ice the Boot — Understanding Pneumatic De-Icing”; the US Division of Transportation’s 2015 Advisory Round, underneath “Pilot Guide — Flight in Icing Circumstances” (the part titled “Deicing Methods” begins with “Pneumatic Boots”); and in NASA’s History Collection, “We Freeze to Please: A History of NASA’s Icing Research Tunnel and the Quest for Flight Security.”
From growing older ovens to golf balls to fuel masks to pioneering adhesives to aircraft deicing — William Chauncey Geer’s innovations comprise a powerful body of labor. In the pantheon of North Country stars (we do have a pantheon, don’t we?), he certainly deserves a place among the highest.
Pictures: William Chauncey Geer (Rotarian journal, 1940); Pneumatic wing boot (US Dept. of Transportation round, 2015); headlines (Ogdensburg Republican-Journal, 1931); Geer-Sort Growing older Oven (M&Okay Co., Ltd.)
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