RIP – The Man Who Pushed WD-40 Forward

Today’s UK newspapers had an obit for John S. Barry, the man who turned a small product for coating missiles into WD-40

Barry died on 3 July aged 84, is credited with turning WD-40 into worldwide product:

“Employees of what was then the Rocket Chemical Co. in San Diego were selling their rust-preventer out of car trunks when Barry joined in 1969 as president and CEO. WD-40 was used to coat missiles but also had a smaller following among consumers who used it to lubricate everything from bicycle chains to fishing reels. Barry, who held a business degree from MIT, suggested renaming the firm after its product and went on to help build the company’s place in the global market.

WD-40 was invented in 1953 when Rocket staff set out to develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry. It took them 40 attempts to work out the water displacement formula; the name WD-40 stands for ‘water displacement, formulation successful in 40th attempt.'” (UK Independent Newspaper, from AP press releases)

Originally marketed as “Rocket WD-40” the product is now marketed in over 160 countries. WD-40 was first used by Convair to protect the outer skin of the Atlas missile.

The WD-40 company says surveys show that WD-40, the slippery stuff in the blue and yellow aerosol can, can be found in as many as 80 percent of American homes.

I’m guessing, but I suspect there is hardly a Ham Shack that doesn’t have a can of WD-40.

How many stuck antenna clamps, rotors, tower cables, and 1000 of other radio items have been helped with WD-40?

A nice account of his role in bringing Norm Larsen’s “Rocket WD-40” to a worldwide product can be found at:



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