What is the greatest invention of mankind? If you answered wheel, computer, mobile phone or Internet porn, then it is immediately clear that you do not have children. But we, young and not so young mothers and fathers, know for sure: the greatest invention in history is disposable diapers.
Since ancient times, people have tried to simplify the care of a baby, various methods have been invented. Plant leaves, animal skins and other natural materials were used. In countries with a warm climate, of course, life was easier, but even there, mothers needed remarkable dexterity and speed of reaction in order to prevent leakage and not be branded as a sluggish mother. With the development of civilization, by the 18th century, the practice of wrapping babies with rectangular pieces of cloth, simply speaking, diapers, was entrenched, they were made from linen or cotton. Babies were swaddled, wrapped up, wrapped in pieces of cloth, but still washing, washing, and a little later ironing took a huge amount of time and effort. In the middle of the 20th century, they tried to solve the problem with the help of services that took dirty diapers from parents, and later their more advanced version - reusable diapers, cleaned them, and then took them home. But such an opportunity was available only to wealthy residents of the United States and Europe, and for them such a solution was too cumbersome, costly and inconvenient.
The problem remained unresolved until a qualitatively new idea arose: “Why, in fact, think about how to clean diapers? Wouldn't it be easier to invent disposables and just throw them away after use! For a modern person, the novelty and genius of such an idea is not obvious, we have long been accustomed to disposable diapers. But for mothers of the 50s and 60s, such a product was unusual, it was not clear why buy a thing at a time and immediately throw it away. The cost of a diaper seemed unreasonably high (in the US, the first disposable diapers cost about 8 cents) and the quality was not high enough. A truly titanic effort was required from manufacturers to introduce into the minds of buyers the idea of the need to buy diapers not only for emergencies, but also for every day.
|Images from the book “Housekeeping”, Selkhozgiz publishing house, Moscow, 1957|
The very idea of a disposable diaper, as they say, was in the air, its authorship is attributed to several people. The most famous contenders for authorship are the American Marion Donovan, who came up with the idea of wrapping an ordinary reusable diaper in oilcloth (her first sample was wrapped in a shower curtain), an American housewife called her invention “Boater” - “Boatman”. Another contender for the right to be called the father of disposable diapers is the Swedish company Paulistrom, which released in 1942 absorbent pads made of cellulose, which were used as disposable diapers. In 1947, George M. Schroder, who worked at the Textile Research Institute of the University of Chattanooga, invents non-woven disposable diapers. In the same year, British housewife Valerie Hunter Gordon patents two-piece diapers. And another unconfirmed version is the invention of disposable diapers by the airline. Eastern airlines: after numerous complaints from passengers, the company's employees found a way to facilitate the transport of small children on board.
Manufacturers tried to bring many ideas to life, but the mass industrial production of disposable diapers was established only in the mid-50s. Several companies claim the right to be called the first company to establish the mass production and sale of disposable diapers: Procter & Gamblewho named their products Pampers (from “pamper” - “spoil”, “undead”), and Swedish SCA (Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget) with their diapers Libero, as well as Johnson & Johnson, who launched an analogue of modern disposable diapers on the market back in 1949.
Who is the inventor of diapers? The dispute between the firms has not been resolved so far, but the truth is that not two or three, but rather two hundred firms produced similar products that were not in great demand, and only a few of them managed to create high quality diapers and establish their mass sales. Due to the fact that in Russian the word “diaper” has a synonym - “pampers” (in fact, pampers is the name of a specific brand of diapers from the company Procter & Gamble), there is a misconception that Pampers and were the first diapers. This is true only for the market of the former USSR, the first diapers we had, indeed, were diapers and the word was transferred to all products in general. (While not entirely historically accurate, it still sounds better than the cumbersome Russian phrase “disposable diapers.”)
Just as the appearance of the first semblance of a disposable diaper was a huge leap over baby-wrapped diapers, so the first diapers were yesterday with the advent of industrially developed designs. Serious engineering developments Procter & Gamble Victor Mills (Victor Mills) and his team led to the emergence of a new generation of diapers - their "pampers" (appeared on sale in 1961) were already three-layer, a layer of viscose was adjacent to the body of the child, plastic covered the outside of the "pampers", and inside was a paper base folded in several layers. Over time, the shape of the diapers changes: they fit the baby's legs more tightly, the fasteners become more comfortable.
In 1966, another event takes place, which can also indirectly be called the birth of modern disposable diapers. Carlyle Harmon of Johnson & Johnson and Billy Gene Harper of Dow Chemical separately invent the essence of modern diapers - an absorbent layer, a special polymer capable of absorbing fluids three hundred times its own weight. .
Despite the fact that diapers are similar in appearance, any well-known company has about a hundred, or even several hundred patents for improvements. If the first disposable diapers were a layer of fabric wrapped in a plastic shell, then when serious companies became interested in diapers and funds for scientific development began to be allocated, diapers became a real miracle of scientific thought - this is another reason why this invention has several “fathers” - each of them came up with “his” diaper, his own interesting development.
All the main inventions in the magical world of diapers have already been made, now it is more up to designers to improve them, although scientists also have work to do. Unfortunately, we should not forget that any new solution breeds new problems. Now that scientists have given the world their great invention, it's time to think about the problems that diapers have caused. Along with the disputes about the usefulness of diapers for the skin of the child, which have not yet been unambiguously resolved, there is a clear and yet insoluble problem. This is the problem of their disposal, or rather the impossibility of the complete disposal of disposable diapers. They accumulate and accumulate in landfills, as the polymers that make up them decompose extremely slowly, and it is very likely that the diaper that the grandfather used in infancy will outlive his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Massive use and the inability to subsequently destroy diapers have led to a serious environmental problem. The solution has not yet been found, the ideal diaper has not been invented, but growing consumer concern has led to new developments that in a few years or a few decades, perhaps will become a new generation of environmentally friendly and baby-friendly disposable diapers.
Half a century has passed since the distant 50s, and it has become commonplace for any mother to go to a supermarket or pharmacy to choose a pack of Pampers or Libero, Huggies or Fixies, GOO.N or Merries, Moltex or Helen Harper. Diapers are produced by American, Japanese, European and even domestic companies - the choice is huge. Compared to the first diapers, modern diapers absorb better and do not harm the child, of course, if they are not abused. In general, let's say thanks to all the inventors of such a wonderful hygiene product who worked so that you and I could spend more time with the child, and not with an iron and a washing machine.