1 It’s at times like these when we can all be grateful for Glaswegian chemist Charles Macintosh. The constant rain that has been battering the city over the last few days would have been a lot harder to deal with had it not been for his marvellous invention of 1823 - the raincoat.

2 Born on December 29, 1766, Macintosh worked as a clerk for a Glasgow merchant, but by the age of 19 he had already given it up to pursue his true passion of chemistry. By 1797, at the age of 23, he had established Scotland’s first alum works at Hurlet in Renfrewshire using as a raw material waste shale from oil shale mines. He also went into partnership with Charles Tennant, producing bleaching powder at a chemical works at St Rollox in Glasgow.

Photo by Kirsty Anderson

Photo by Kirsty Anderson

3 While trying to find uses for waste products, Macintosh noted that coal-tar naphtha dissolved india rubber. He took some wool cloth, painted one side of it with the rubber preparation and placed another piece of wool cloth on top, producing a waterproof fabric. Soon after, he began making coats and other garments and the ‘mackintosh’ raincoat was named after him. Early Mac coats had problems with smell, stiffness, and a tendency to melt in hot weather, but things improved greatly when vulcanized rubber, which resisted temperature changes, became available in 1839. The company, Mackintosh, is now owned by Japanese fashion group Yagi Tsusho, and still makes its rubberised coats in Glasgow.

4 Macintosh married Mary Fisher in 1790, and they had one son, George. In 1823, Charles was elected a fellow of the Royal Society for his chemical discoveries.

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5 Charles died in 1843 and is buried in the Glasgow Cathedral graveyard alongside his parents, in the ground of his great grandfather, John Anderson of Douhill, Lord Provost of Glasgow. His name is on the 17th century monument there too.