The hard pavement surface we now call asphalt was discovered by chance when an Englishman named E. Purnell Hooley accidentally spilled tar onto some crushed stone.
Hooley named this new black pavement by taking the last name of Scotsman John MacAdam, who had developed the use of crushed stone for a firm, dry highway, and prefixing it with “tar.”
Tarmacadam was a mouthful, however, and was soon shortened to Tarmac.
Hooley patented Tarmac in 1903.
The term tarmac is also used for other materials and surfaces such as the paved runway of an airport.