Whether or not you’re a fan of golf or sports typically, you’re in all probability conscious that Tiger Woods lately gained the Masters. His impression on golf historical past has been super, but the latest chapter in his saga has been inspirational for a number of causes: by means of lengthy, rigorous effort, he overcame physical obstacles that might have ended most sports careers; as an previous man, he defeated all the perfect young players on the planet (he’s only 43, but athletes of their forties seldom win the most important events); and general, it was a uncommon comeback effort that the majority specialists dismissed as unimaginable because of the elements simply cited — and we do love comeback stories.
However this isn’t about Tiger Woods and it isn’t a comeback story. It’s a few exceptional North Country man who affected in a constructive means untold tens of millions of individuals around the globe via his innovations, together with one in every of his lesser creations — a brand new and improved golf ball that was the business commonplace for many years.
First, a quick define of his life. William Chauncey Geer was born in June 1876 in Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, where his father, Charles, was a well-liked and well-known agent of “the American and United States and Canada Categorical corporations,” in response to the town’s Day by day Journal. He built a large, snug residence and employed two domestics, reflecting a successful enterprise life, but for reasons unsure — speculation blamed it on monetary troubles as a consequence of failed mining investments — Charles took his personal life in July 1882. His spouse, Lucy, determined their 4 youngsters can be greatest educated within the State Normal Faculty at Potsdam, so the Ogdensburg home was bought to settle Charles’s debts. By the following spring, with the help of an insurance-policy payout, the household pulled up stakes and settled in at Potsdam.
Young Billie’s childhood was common: he turned wonderful at capturing a gun, joined teams in church and at college, and held numerous jobs, together with one summer time every selling newspapers, hiring on at a drug retailer, and dealing for the publish workplace. Lucy’s emphasis on morals, duty, and a robust work ethic have been key in guiding the youngsters to success in class.
Beneath Professor Warren Mann, Billie’s rising curiosity in chemistry typically led to unintended penalties. Years later, the Potsdam Herald-Recorder reported on class reunions where references have been made to his previous hi-jinks. At one occasion, Geer was “launched by Mr. Mann as famous in class days for his hot-air balloons and devilish ink eradicators.” A yr later, the paper mentioned that “he lived in Potsdam, and tried to set hearth to the Regular Faculty by his zeal and earnestness in the efficiency of chemistry problems.”
After graduating from Potsdam in 1897, he adopted in big-brother Herbert’s footsteps and attended Cornell. Herb, seven years older, was an ideal success at Johns Hopkins as professor of electrical and mechanical engineering. William, the youngest in the family, was joined in Ithaca by his mom, who lived with him there. After his freshman yr, she moved with him to Nyack (on the Hudson River, a few dozen miles north of New York Metropolis) when he accepted a job educating high-school science. He resigned a yr later they usually returned to Cornell, where he resumed what turned a stellar faculty career. He was an assistant in the Mineralogy Department (as a junior); was a pacesetter of the talk club; completed his degree necessities ahead of schedule in each chemistry and physics; was revealed in the Journal of Bodily Chemistry (a 25-page article titled “Thermostats and Thermo Regulators”), and early in his senior yr was awarded a full assistantship within the Chemistry Division.
A yr later (1903), he achieved Fellow standing in chemistry in recognition of high accomplishments in the subject. He additionally taught at Cornell, earned his PhD in 1905, worked as a wood-distillation skilled for the US Division of Agriculture Forest Service, and in 1907 was hired as chief chemist by B. F. Goodrich of Akron, Ohio. The next yr, he married Effie Work, whose older brother, Bertram, was the Goodrich company president. In 1913 he was named supervisor of the Improvement Division and led research efforts, especially within the properties of rubber, working on tasks for both the corporate and the federal government. In 1920 he turned vice-president in control of analysis, and retired from the corporate in 1925, at which point he moved to Ithaca, constructed a home, arrange a laboratory close by, and continued working on research, much of it for B. F. Goodrich. He was, in any case, simply 49 years previous and one of the premier specialists on working with rubber.
Whereas some of his inventions had large effects on companies and industries worldwide, the main target right here is on two of his lesser-known inventions, one among which did not achieve mainstream acceptance and died at the patent degree. The appliance, filed in 1917, went proper to the purpose: “Be it recognized that I, William C. Geer … have invented a certain new and helpful enchancment in Writing Implements or Units, of which the following is a specification. My current invention pertains to an improved writing implement or system, and is designed to take the place of the implements or units now generally in use, corresponding to pens (each peculiar and fountain), pencils, crayons, and the like.” A summarized description followed: “A writing implement, consisting of a body composed of a mix of carnauba wax and finely-ground pumice-stone, the physique having a collection of small cells distributed all through the identical, stated cells being full of writing fluid.”
An invention’s success hinges on many elements, together with want for the product and high quality of the competitors. While Geer’s new writing implement might have labored completely, who needed it? And more particularly, we all know who didn’t want it: the highly effective mixture of corporations that already provided the nation with countless hundreds of thousands of pens, pencils, and crayons. His creation was publicized in newspapers and in monthlies like In style Science, however beyond that, it attracted little consideration.
The identical can’t be stated of his work on the golf ball, which was very profitable. In February 1924, he filed a patent enhancing on the ball presently in use. The opening paragraph defined Geer’s objectives: “The chief objects of my invention are to supply a golf ball having improved union of the duvet material with the wound structure, and to offer a easy and effective technique for making the same, whereby I acquire a superior ball capable of longer flight and having increased durability. An extra object is to offer a golf ball having a troublesome outer layer of overlaying materials adapted to face up to rough utilization….”
Many tweaks and enhancements adopted, but the largest influence by far of his golf-related patents gained approval within the 1930s. Each Dr. Geer (working for B. F. Goodrich) and Sidney Cadwell (working for U. S. Rubber) independently developed a course of that toughened the covers of golf balls. James Healey, a St. Louis golf historian, says, “A number of the balls of this era had the phrases ‘Cadwell Cowl’ or ‘Geer Patent Cover’ stamped on them, whereas others used the ‘Cadwell-Geer Cover’ identify. This turned the usual cover used on balls until the 1960s, when Surlyn was first used.”
On the Titleist web site, historic analysis and story comments concur. “Within the mid 1930s, there was quite a lot of improvement happening relating to ball and cover development. A whole lot of patents have been filed on the time, but two particularly are relevant right here. There was the Geer Patent Cowl and the Cadwell Patent Cover. These two patents have been so comparable that there was a lawsuit in both 1937 or 1939 … that resulted within the two patents being mixed. The earliest Titleist balls had the Geer Patent Cover. Titleist balls made after the patents have been combined had the Cadwell-Geer Cowl.”
And so it was that, for greater than 20 years, many prime golfers used balls bearing the Geer imprint, together with female celebrity Babe Didrikson and two male luminaries, Sam Snead and Walter Hagen, who had signature golf balls that bore their names along with Geer and Cadwell. The new ball, carried by Wilson, Titleist, and Spaulding, the game’s largest suppliers, endured as a normal for greater than 20 years, when technological advances with new materials led to new covers. In 1961, a patent authorised for “Strategies of Masking Golf Balls” famous that, “The tactic of the Geer patent has been extensively used within the manufacture of golf balls for a few years.” His time had handed, but little Billie Geer from far upstate New York had left his mark on the sport.
When Tiger Woods rolled within the profitable putt on the 2019 Masters, it was an amazing second for him and for hundreds of thousands of followers, however it was one thing else as properly. In athletics, fantastic achievements mirror the current state of a sport’s evolution, which is guided by various factors: training methods, food regimen, medical care, and ongoing improvements to gear. (As an example, we wouldn’t see at the moment’s degree of tennis if picket rackets hadn’t been replaced by trendy compounds.)
On the earth of golf, we will rightly claim that one of many North Country’s biggest inventors, William C. Geer, played a substantial position in that course of.
Coming soon: Geer’s biggest works.
Pictures: William C. Geer (India Rubber World journal, 1919); headlines (Potsdam Herald-Recorder, 1924); Geer Patent Cover golf ball (eBay); Wilson golf balls with Cadwell-Geer covers (eBay); commercial (Life magazine, 1951); U.S. Royal golf balls with Cadwell-Geer covers (eBay)
(perform(d, s, id) var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s); if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&appId=249643311490&version=v2.3’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); (doc, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));