The Macintosh Born

Charles Macintosh, the inventor of rainproof overcoats, was born on 29 December 1766.

Charles Macintosh. Mezzotint by E. Burton after J. G. Gilbert. Wellcome Collection.

The benefactor who gave the world rainproof overcoats also left his name to them. Born in Glasgow in 1766, Charles Macintosh came from a prosperous business family. Educated at grammar school in Glasgow, from his boyhood he was fascinated by chemistry and attended university lectures on the subject in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. By the age of 20 he had his own plant in his home city, manufacturing lead acetate and other chemicals and inventing improved processes for dying cloth. By the late 1790s he was closely involved with Charles Tennant, who ran the St Rollex works in Glasgow, where Macintosh invented a bleaching powder that made both of them good money. Macintosh’s achievements in chemistry would see him elected to the Royal Society in London.

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