On April 27, 1896, Wallace Hume Carothers, the famous American chemist and inventor credited with the discovery of a method for obtaining the polymer nylon, was born. The scientist became the first industrial organic chemist elected to the US National Academy of Sciences (1936). Most of Carothers’ work was done in the experimental laboratory of DuPont, located near the city of Wilmington in Delaware. As the head of this laboratory, the scientist created a new synthetic material called Nylon. The DuPont company disclosed this discovery in 1938.
The potential range of application of the new material was very wide, but the concern decided to focus on the promotion of nylon in the market of fashionable goods, and more specifically, women’s stockings, writes the Sibirskaya Neft magazine. The discovery was a real sensation in the market. Nylon products turned out to be much stronger and more affordable than silk stockings and esthetically more attractive than those of viscose and cotton, which dominated the market at that time. In 1939, DuPont showcased its goods with great ceremony at the International Fair in New York, and the public appreciated it.
Strong and largely non-wettable nylon was the first manmade artificial fiber. In 1939, the first nylon stockings appeared on sale, which, due to their cheapness and high consumer qualities, enjoyed great success: more than 60 million pairs were sold in the first year.
Nylon is also used today for the production of various sleeves, inserts and thin coatings, strings for music instruments, etc. During World War II all nylon manufactured in the U.S. went to the military, so nylon apparel could only be obtained illegally and cost a fortune.
Under Carothers’ leadership, the first synthetic rubber from DuPont, neoprene, was also produced. It still remains one of the most widely used materials in many industries. Later, the scientist created a synthetic fabric from polyester fiber. But, of course, nylon remains his most famous invention.
Unfortunately, Wallace Carothers did not live to fully enjoy the fruits of his discoveries. For most of his life, the scientist suffered from bouts of depression and melancholy and faced numerous problems in his personal life. At the age of 41, the chemist committed suicide by taking potassium cyanide.
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