South African engineer George Pratley South African engineer George Pratley

George Pratley was a renowned South African inventor who developed significant products for use in industry and became known for his innovative adhesive products. These include Pratley Putty, which was used on Apollo 11's Eagle landing craft in 1969, which carried Neil Armstrong to the moon.

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Although George Pratley invented one of the world’s strongest adhesives, he could not deny his whimsical side and fashioned a range of rubber toy cars.

When the Americans landed on the moon in 1969, Neil Armstrong and his team had a bit of South Africa with them – Pratley Putty, an adhesive agent invented by South African engineer and inventor George Pratley.

Initially called Pratley Plastic Putty, it was developed in the early 1960s as an insulator and an adhesive agent for fixing brass terminals inside cast-iron cable-junction boxes. In 1965, Pratley built Humphrey, a robot, from scrap metal held together by Pratley Putty.

The putty was so effective that it was used on Apollo 11's Eagle landing craft in the moon landing of 1969.

Pratley, born on September 19, 1917,  drew on his strong engineering background to develop innovative products for industry, most notably the mining sector. One of his first inventions was a specialised mine hose clamp and the Vula Vala mining valve. In the 1950s, he developed and patented the world's first electrical-delay explosives igniter, and a few years later, Pratley Putty.

The putty was the first of its kind in the world and, apart from the moon landing, was also used to halt cracking in one of the main supports of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, United States. 

Pratley also used his imagination to invent fun products, like robots and a motorbike that folded up to fit into a carry bag. 

Pratley formed Pratley Engineering in 1948, and over the years developed groundbreaking products, including the world's first chemical-delay igniter and numerous adhesive products, such as the acclaimed Pratley Wondafix and Wham accelerated super glue.

Pratley passed away in 1983 at the age of 66, and his son, Kim, succeeded him as CEO of the Pratley Group. Today the company manufactures 800 products and has registered 300 patents. It has won a number of awards over the years, including a Technology Top 100 Award in 1993.

The company has since extended its reach into diamond mining and high-end minerals microanalysis. Despite this, the family-run business still upholds the legacy of its creative and inspired founder, George Pratley.