facts about the invention
of Nylon by Wallace
Carothers in 1938.
|Toward the end of the 1920s
an important breakthrough for DuPont Corporation came as a result of fundamental rather
than applied research. The head of research noted at the time: "We are including in
the budget for 1927 an item of $20,000 to cover what may be called, for want of a better
name, pure science or fundamental research work...the sort of work we refer to...has the
object of establishing or discovering new scientific facts." In a short time the
group that had been put together under this budget had developed an understanding of
radical polymerization and established the basic principles for condensation
polymerization and the structure of condensation polymers. This led to the invention and
commercialization of nylon in 1938--the beginning of the modern materials revolution.
(Prior to this, the group yielded neoprene synthetic rubber in 1933.)
||Dr. Wallace Hume Carothers, the inventor
of nylon, at DuPont. Dr. Carothers work in polymerization set in motion the
modern materials revolution that continues to this day in the development of products that
replicate nature yet add specific characteristics such as fire resistance, insulation, and
light weight plus strength. When Du Pont decided to develop
nylon into a commercial fiber, the company specifically intended to use it to compete with
silk in the womens hosiery market. The choice was deliberate, strategic, and
significant. Years of research devoted to targeting this particular market proved
"Nylons," as they were soon called, eventually replaced
silk stockings. Neither resembled the "panty hose" many women wear today.
Covering only about two-thirds of a womans leg, from the feet to mid-thigh,
stockings were fastened with garters and a belt. They were knitted on highly complex
machines. Women could buy them in either "full-fashioned" form with seams at the
back or "seamless." One-piece sheer "panty hose" were not developed
until the 1960s.
|Cultural adjustment to the hosiery
made of the new fiber took time. Available to consumers nationwide by 1940, nylon
stockings did not become a part of everyday life immediately or automatically. Many forces
and events contributed to creating the social meaning of this new productthe 1939
New York Worlds Fair, World War II, an enthusiastic press response, consumer tests
and surveys, retail and marketing programs, and technical issues of manufacture and
When America entered World War II, first silk and then nylon were commandeered
by the federal government (specifically the War Production Board) to supply defense needs.
Overnight, stockings made of any materials became hard to find. Nylon became important to
the war effort because it was used, for example, in parachutes and tires. On the home
front, the popular press presented nylon as a miracle of technology that Americans could
again enjoy when the war ended.
Chemistry History from The Great Idea
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
for One Lifetime: Wallace Carothers, Inventor of Nylon
by Matthew E. Hermes / Hardcover - 345 pages (June 1996) / Chemical Heritage Foundation
A sensitive biography of the chemist who created
condensation polymerization, and gave the world its first synthetic rubber and fiber:
neoprene and nylon.
Breakthrough Thinking at DuPont
by Rosabeth Moss Kanter (Editor), Fred Wiersema (Contributor), John J. Kao, Tom Peters /
Hardcover - 208 pages 1 Ed edition (July 1997) / Harperbusiness
Case studies by executives of 3M, DuPont, GE, Pfizer, and Rubbermaid show their company's
commitment to innovation and present lessons learned by these well-known companies that
have turned themselves into integrated innovation machines.
ON THE WEB:
Brief History of DuPont
DuPont is one of the oldest continuously operating industrial enterprises in the
world. The company was established in 1802 near Wilmington, Delaware, by a French
(URL: www.dupont.com/corp/overview/history/ )
On October 27, 1938, Charles Stine, a vice president of E. I. du Pont de Nemours, Inc.,
announced that nylon had been invented. From The Nylon Drama by David A. Hounshell and
John Kenly Smith, Jr. essay on stockings at the Smithsonian.
Lots of pictures of the million dollar legs and more.
(URL: www.bombshells.com/grable/ )
History of Plastics
We all know the many ways that plastics contribute to our health, safety and peace of
mind. But how did the material plastic come about?
The origin of DuPont's nylon.
Invention Dimension -
Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual
awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.
Inventors Hall of Fame
Located at Inventure Place, the online home of creative minds. Inducted in 1984,
Wallace Hume Carothers (Apr 27 1896 - Apr 29 1937) for his invention Diamine-Dicarboxylic
Acid Salts and Process of Preparing Same; Synthetic Fiber Synthetic Rubber
Tragically Wallace Carothers, regarded by his contemporaries as an outstanding
chemist, never lived to see his new product become a necessity in modern life.
- Carothers was a prolific author of articles, and received more
than 50 patents,
- Best remembered for her legs, Betty Grable was one of
Hollywood's top stars during the 1940s. She began her film career at the age of thirteen,
working steadily throughout the 1930s in bit parts and campus movies. During that period
she also spent time as a vocalist for the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra and Jay Whidden's
Orchestra. Betty finally achieved top billing in the 1939 Paramount film Million Dollar
Legs (ironically, the legs alluded to belong to a racehorse, not Betty!) and soon after
was signed by 20th Century Fox, spending most of the 40s as their top box office draw.
During WWII, Betty's legs made her even more famous as a pin-up girl. Betty ended her film
career in 1955. She spent the rest of her life working on stage. Betty passed away in 1973
after a year-long battle with lung cancer.
Sources in BOLD Type
page revised March, 2005.
Berners-Lee's invention has revolutionized the world like nothing
The invention of the Internet,
should be classed with the greatest events of the 20th Century.
The Aero Sport All-Terrain Bed
with Dual Power Pump is the perfect addition to any camping trip or weekend
book, is the perfect desktop reference for both the science novice and the
technologically advanced reader alike.
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