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Do you know who invented Kevlar?

Stephanie Louise Kwolek

Do you know who invented Kevlar?

By Don Valentine and Adan Hernandez

Did you know that one of the most useful fibers in the world was created by a female? This remarkable woman is a Polish American chemist named Stephanie Louise Kwolek. She was working for an American chemical company named DuPont when she discovered this material.

Police Lt. David Spicer took four 45-caliber slugs to the chest and arms at point-blank range and lived to tell about it. Like thousands of other police officers and soldiers shot in the line of duty, he owes his life to Stephanie Kwolek.

A pioneer as a woman in a mostly male field, she made the breakthrough while working on specialty fibers at a DuPont laboratory. DuPont was looking for strong, lightweight material that could replace steel in auto-mobile tires, and improve fuel economy.

“I knew that I had made a discovery,” Ms. Kwolek said in an interview several years ago that was included in the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s “Women in Chemistry” series. “I didn’t shout ‘Eureka,’ but I was very excited, as was the whole laboratory, and management was excited because we were looking for something new, something different, and this was it.”

In a statement, DuPont CEO and Chairwoman Ellen Kullman described Kwolek, who retired in 1986, as “a creative and determined chemist and a true pioneer for women in science.” Ms. Kwolek is the only female employee of DuPont to be awarded the company’s “La-voisier Medal” for outstanding technical achievement. She was recognized as a “persistent experimentalist and role model.””  She leaves a wonderful legacy of thousands of lives saved and countless injuries prevented by products made possible by her discovery,” Ms. Kullman said.

Kevlar is used in our every-day life and we don’t even know it. It is used in bike tires, bow-strings, and tennis rackets. It has saved lives, brought joy, produced happiness, and all of that is possible because of Stephanie Kwolek.

 

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