American Chemical Society recognizes landmark chemistry research at DuPont

November 14, 2000

Research in 1930s by DuPont chemist Wallace H. Carothers that led to the production of nylon - a revolution in the textile industry - will be honored as an International Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, on November 17.

American Chemical Society President Daryle H. Busch will officially designate the landmark work that established modern polymer science at a 10 a.m. ceremony at DuPont's Experimental Station in Wilmington, Del.

Carothers began his pioneering studies into the chemistry of giant molecules at DuPont in 1928. He excelled at creating polymers, and his work led to the production in 1932 of neoprene, the first synthetic rubber made in the United States, and to the highly successful production in 1939 of nylon, the world's first totally synthetic textile fiber.

In the early 1920s, the German organic chemist and future Nobel laureate Hermann Staudinger theorized that polymers consisted of units linked together by the same covalent bonds found in smaller organic molecules. Staudinger's theory was considered controversial at the time. While Carothers had no direct contact with Staudinger, Carothers' ideas were generally in line with Staudinger's. The research of Carothers, Staudinger and their colleagues in the 1920s and 1930s laid the foundations of modern polymer science for today's plastics, synthetic fiber and rubber industries. Today, approximately half of the industrial chemists in the United States work in some area of polymer chemistry.

Carothers, born in Burlington, Iowa, in 1896, spent a year at Capital Cities Commercial College in Des Moines, Iowa. He then enrolled in Tarkio College in northwestern Missouri where he taught chemistry classes prior to graduating. Carothers earned his master's degree and his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois where he went on to become an instructor. Carothers accepted a teaching post at Harvard University prior to working at DuPont.
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The American Chemical Society started the National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program in 1992 to commemorate and preserve landmarks in the history of chemistry and to heighten public awareness of the key role chemistry has played in the history of the United States and nations around the world. More than 30 places, discoveries and devices have achieved landmark status since the program's inception.

This event will take place at Terrace on the Mall at DuPont Experimental Station, 200 Powdermill Road, Wilmington, Del. at 10 a.m.

American Chemical Society

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