Charles Macintosh lived from 29 December 1766 to 25 July 1843. He was a chemist and the inventor of waterproof fabric. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Charles Macintosh was born in Glasgow, where his father, George Macintosh, had a factory making dye from lichen. He studied chemistry under Joseph Black at the University of Edinburgh and by 1797, at the age of 23, he had established Scotland's first alum works at Hurlet, 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, near Glasgow.
Macintosh went on to invest in the development of a number of other chemical processes, many using as raw materials the ammonia and tar produced as by-products in the gasworks established in Glasgow in 1817. He used ammonia to help produce a wide range of coloured dyes. The tar was distilled to produce naptha, though Macintosh had to work hard to find ways of turning this into a valuable product. The answer came when he discovered it was possible to dissolve india-rubber in naptha. When this material was sandwiched between two layers of fabric, the result was a completely waterproof material.
In 1823 Macintosh was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. The following year he went into partnership with the Manchester industrialist, Hugh Hornby Birley, who was a director of the Manchester Gas Works and a cotton spinner and weaver. The result was a factory producing waterproof material marketed under the name "Mackintosh" with an extra "k". A consequential result was the introduction of a new item of clothing: the waterproof "Mackintosh" or simply the "mac".
Although Charles Macintosh is primarily remembered for his waterproof material, he made a series of important contributions to the field of industrial chemistry in the early 1800s. He died in 1843 at Dunchattan, near Glasgow, and was buried in the churchyard of Glasgow Cathedral.