This is a fascinating obituary about John S. Barry who recently passed away at age 84. He was famous for popularizing WD-40:
Mr. Barry was not part of the Rocket Chemical Company in 1953, when its staff of three set out to develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry in a small lab in San Diego. 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.”
Convair, a unit of General Dynamics, first used WD-40 to protect the outer skin of the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion. The product worked so well that employees sneaked WD-40 cans out of the plant to use at home. Norm Larsen, the Rocket Chemical technician who invented WD-40, soon came up with the idea of selling it to the general public.
WD-40 hit store shelves in San Diego in 1958. In 1961, employees came in on a Saturday to produce the first truckload shipment to meet disaster needs of victims of Hurricane Carla on the Gulf Coast. WD-40 was used to recondition flood-damaged vehicles.
Sales continued to increase, but it was the arrival of Mr. Barry as president and chief executive in 1969 that jolted the company to dominance in its unusual niche market. He immediately changed the name of Rocket Chemical to the WD-40 Company, on the indisputable theory that it did not make rockets.
WD-40 is great stuff and apparently John Barry was a great man.
I also found this interesting:
Mr. Barry was fiercely dedicated to protecting the secret formula of WD-40, not to mention its trademarks and distinctive container. The company never patented WD-40, in order to avoid having to disclose the ingredients publicly.