Today’s discoveries would have never been possible if it wasn’t for scientists whose research changed how we think about polymers today. Their constant inventive attitude and sense of curiosity gave birth to some of the most well-known inventions of the 20th century. From nylon in clothing to kevlar in body armor, the industry has truly shaped many facets of our modern world and improved everyday lives in enormous ways.
We thought it would be a great time to highlight some of our industry’s most pivotal polymer scientists with a little background information and an explanation of their innovations. We asked our very own scientists at Polymer Solutions Incorporated (PSI) who they consider “changed the game” in the world of polymer science. Here are a few of those special folks:
“I don’t think there’s anything like saving someone’s life to bring you satisfaction and happiness.”
These words were spoken by Stephanie Kwolek, and we couldn’t agree more. Kwolek is a polymer scientist whose invention during her 40 year-long career at Dupont continues to shape our world and keep people safe every day. In 1971, she created a heat-resistant, lightweight, and highly durable synthetic polymer that is now a household name. Without a specific industry purpose at the time, Kwolek invented Kevlar.
First used in racing tires, Kevlar’s best known application is in body armor. This incredible innovation keeps hundreds of thousands of police, military, and civilian personnel safe every day. We are so thankful for this product and are proud to honor Kwolek’s work in the field of polymer science.
Very few scientists have had such prolific careers as Robert Langer. Langer holds over 1100 pending or granted patents and has been working in the field of polymer science at M.I.T for many years. He also holds 29 honorary degrees and has made far-reaching contributions to the world of biotechnology and medicine.
Langer is best known for his work with transdermal and controlled-release systems for medical applications. These minimally invasive systems allow doctors to administer life-saving drugs with less risk and stress to the patient. This list of polymer scientists would not be complete without his extensive contributions.
This list is filled with the names of inventors who have created some truly life-changing inventions. None of them are perhaps as common in our lives as the contributions of Wallace Carothers, the inventor of nylon and neoprene.
Another DuPont scientist, Carothers was tasked with creating a synthetic rubber. His research was successful and is known today as neoprene, which is used in wet suits and electronic accessories. His most notable invention is nylon. It would be hard to find someone today who does not have nylon clothing in their closet. The material revolutionized clothing for everyday wear as well as clothing for military applications because of its fast drying and durable properties.
Every scientist on this list created products and altered our world for the better. When it comes to changes in fundamental understandings of the whole field, though, we look towards Nobel laureate Paul Flory. His wide contributions to polymer chemistry has led to so much fundamental understanding. Flory’s work in polymerization and macromolecules created foundational understandings in the field and is taught in universities around the world today.
While this is far from an exhaustive list, we think it showcases the polymer scientists who worked to shape our industry and sense of continued impact. If there is a polymer scientist you think we’ve missed, let us know! We can’t wait to see what the next generation of polymer scientists create to make our community and world a better place. Who is your favorite pivotal polymer scientist?