The Genius of Cleveland

HUGH S. COOPER (1885 -1971) In the first years of Hugh S. Cooper’s life he witnessed the advent of the railway telegraph, the motion picture camera, the electric trolley, and the high-frequency alternator, which made AM radio possible. It was a time of enormous advances in communications, manufacturing, and transportation. Educated as a pharmacist in this time of endless opportunity, Cooper was fascinated by rare metals and their possibilities. Using his 1907 pharmacy degree to gain access to the materials needed, Cooper opened Cooper Laboratories in a garage in Cleveland. While exploring uncommon elements, he began creating alloys by combining rare metals. His first patent for “Cooperite” in 1917 caught the attention of the newly established Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation. They purchased his patents, and Cooper became an employee of Union Carbide, within which he established KEMET Laboratories, Inc. The word “KEMET” stood for “CHEmical and METallurgical.” As Director of KEMET, Cooper led the laboratories in gaining patents and perfecting processes. A transformative discovery was an alloy made of barium and strontium, making possible the famous KEMET getters, which were sold from 1931 until 1987. The getters were essential to the advancement of communications in the coming decades. As a ubiquitous component in vacuum tubes, they helped communication among the Allies in WW2, and they were found in the first computer. In homes, they kept families informed and entertained through radios and early television sets, nicknamed “the tube.” Cooper’s KEMET was not a household name, but it was well on its way to being in every home. Cooper stepped down as Research Director in 1933 to develop new businesses. Likewise, KEMET developed a new business avenue in 1957, capacitors. Through capacitors, a business we continue today, KEMET reached new heights as a critical component in Telstar, the world’s first active communications satellite, in 1962. By Cooper’s death in 1971, the company had expanded from its Cleveland origin to its massive, new headquarters in Simpsonville, SC. Today, we are energized by Cooper’s legacy of endless curiosity and his courage to discover new possibilities in materials and in business.  We are motived to become the world’s most trusted partner for innovative component solutions now and in the future.
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