GE Made a Copper Man, and He Helped Bombardiers Fight WWII

But not as a metallo-robo-fighter.
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One thing about the American forces during World War II: they had our not-quite-as-globalized companies behind them, a fact that these corporations now like to highlight. 

Today, GE posted about their Copper Man, a dummy with a thin copper skin, which was used to test the heated flight suits that kept our men in the bombers warm until pressurized cabins of the B-29. 

The suits worked like electric blankets—wires running in-between layers of wool—and as the engineers worked to optimize the suit, they would try it out in a cold room in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. While human volunteers also participated in the experiments, the Copper Man had an electrical mesh on its "head, hands, torso, and feet" through which researchers could take readings on how the suit was performing. 

After the suits became unnecessary, GE took the technology and found a way to sell it to consumers in a postwar world: actual electric blankets. 

 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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