There is a misconception that Europeans owe the invention of rubber to Columbus. In fact, the navigator only left a description of how the natives of the islands of Haiti played with a ball made from thickened milky juice flowing from cuts on the bark of Brazilian Hevea. When the sap flowed from the tree, it seemed to the Indians that it was crying. Therefore, they began to call this plant "weeping tree" - from the Indian words kau ("tree") and teach ("cry").
Much later, Europeans who visited America got to know rubber better and even learned, like the locals, to soak their raincoats with the juice of a rubber tree. But rubber came to the Old World only in 1751. The mathematician Charles La Condamine brought some of the frozen juice. He watched his "trophy" for a long time, but could not figure out what benefit rubber could bring him personally and humanity as a whole.
Apart from elasticity, the rubber had no other properties. Therefore, the mathematician called the American gum a gum-plastic and forgot about it. And only almost 20 years later, the frozen juice was used.
The English priest and chemist Joseph Priestley accidentally discovered in 1770 that raw natural rubber was able to erase traces of graphite (pencil) better than the particles of bread that were used for the same purpose at the time. This advantage of rubber is due to the fact that rubbing it against the paper generates electrostatic stress, which allows the rubber particles to attract the graphite particles. Pristley called this substance "Indian rubber" (from the English. Indian rubber - "Indian rubber"). The place of origin of rubber was America, but at that time all American things were called Indian, and it is this inaccurate name that has survived to this day.
However, experiments with rubber continued. In France, comfortable suspenders and garters made of rubber threads woven with cotton were invented. And after 1823, when the Scotsman C. Macintosh came up with the idea of laying a thin layer of rubber between two pieces of fabric, a real "rubber boom" began. Thus was born a rubberized raincoat, named after its inventor Macintosh. However, the "Scottish raincoat" did not immediately gain universal recognition. The fact is that natural rubber lost its elasticity during cold weather, and softened in heat, became sticky and began to smell bad.
Still not knowing about this property of the material, the English shoemaker Rilly began to produce rubber shoes. They say that his goods at first aroused great interest, but when the summer sun baked, boots and galoshes literally melted on the shelves of the shop. Despite the setback that befell Rilly, his business was continued by the American Charles Goodyear. He was a poor man, but, having set himself the goal of "taming" rubber, he stubbornly pursued its achievement. It is said that one industrialist, interested in the experiments of a self-taught inventor, decided to find him. He asked the neighbors how to find Mr. Goodir. He was told that "if you meet a man in a rubber hat, trousers, frock coat, cape, shoes and with a rubber wallet without a single cent in it, then that will be Goodir." In fact, the inventor revolutionized rubber technology. He discovered the principle of vulcanization of rubber, that is, a special treatment of rubber, in which the latter combines with sulfur and, as a result, acquires the ability not to react to temperature changes. In 1843, he patented this process.
Unsurprisingly, Brazil, which has been the largest importer of rubber, has been conserving the source of its wealth. The export of Hevea seeds was banned on pain of death. However, in 1876, British spy Henry Wickham secretly removed 70, 000 Hevea seeds in the holds of the English ship Amazonas. The first rubber plantations were established in the British colonies of Southeast Asia. Natural English rubber has appeared on the world market, which is cheaper than Brazilian.