In Singapore, 1842, Dr William Montgomerie was shown a strange latex by his gardener.
This material, when placed in hot water, could be moulded to any shape you wanted, and, on cooling, would set solid. You could do this again, and again and it would happily mould to any shape desired. Unlike rubber, it didn’t crumble in salt water and stayed firm on setting.
This new wonder material was called Gutta Percha, after the tree that it came from, and it would blow Victorian minds.
Video by Archie Crofton
Narration by Emily West