What happens when you have a small wound? Just apply a small piece of sticky plaster with gauze (a loosely-woven cotton surgical dressing), or band-aid on it for a few days, and ta-da, your wound is healed!
What a stupendous item this band-aid is! So ideal for accident prone people, whether adults or kids. Well it was exactly for this reason that Earle Dickson invented it. He did it for his wife, who though not into rough contact sports was nevertheless accident prone.
Earle Dickson was an employee of the American company producing baby and surgical products, Johnson & Johnson. Although the band-aid was Earle’s invention, the company image has overshadowed the inventor.
In the 1860’s, British surgeon Sir Joseph Lister pioneered sanitary operating room procedures. During those days, surgery was done with bare hands. People were even allowed to observe the operations. Instruments were not sterilized – only washed with soap and water.
Lister came to America and lectured on the need for sanitation to prevent germs and bacteria from attacking the human body. Robert Johnson, a chemist from Brooklyn, New York was impressed by this talk and he and his brothers decided to produce safe sanitary equipment for surgical purposes. They set up a company called Johnson & Johnson.
In 1920, the company launched a dry gauze dressing that remained sterile in germ-resistant packaging and a baby powder to help new-born babies from getting rashes and sores.
Earle Dickson was an employee at Johnson & Johnson. His wife was very accident prone, always cutting and bruising herself. Earle found the company’s large dressing too cumbersome to fix the numerous cuts and bruises. And so he cut the large bandages and affixed smaller pieces of the gauze on surgical tape.
The bandage was less cumbersome and easier to handle. Encouraged, he took the idea to the Johnson brothers who realised the market potential of the product.
The first band-aids were handmade and quite large: 18 inches long and two-and-a-half inches wide. But initial market reaction was negative and the product wouldn’t move across the counter. The company then revamped the product by cutting down to a more suitable size and introduced it in a new package in 1924. And sales skyrocketed.
However, Earle Dickson the inventor, was not totally ignored. Johnson & Johnson made him a vice president, and later gave him a seat on the board of directors.
Today, Band-Aid (a registered trademark) sales exceeds $30,000,000 per year and production is in excess of one hundred billion. And it’s all thanks to an accident-prone woman, and a man who stuck some gauze on a tape!