Stephanie Louise KwolekBorn July 31, 1923
Stephanie Louise Kwolek was born on July 31, 1923 in Kensington, Pennsylvania. She was always interested in natural sciences and medicine. She graduated from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1946 with a Bachelorís degree in chemistry and biology. Kwolek obtained a job at Dupont Chemicals in Buffalo, New York and planned to continue her education as soon as she had earned enough money to attend.
At Dupont she worked creating polymers, new types of plastics, and was successful in making many previously unknown types. Her goal was to continually invent stronger and stiffer polymer fibers. Then in 1964 she created a new substance five times stronger than steel. This new polymer was named Kevlar. Kevlar was first marketed in 1971. As a lightweight, extremely strong material Kevlar has proven to have many applications. It is used to make bullet-resistant vests, skis, tires, tennis rackets, fiber optic cables, helmets, and even pieces of space crafts.
Kwolek retired from Dupont in 1986. At the time of her retirement she had earned 17 patents and continued to consult for the Dupont company. She been recognized with several honors including receiving the National Medal of Technology and in 1999 she won the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award.
Make your own plastic like substance with the activity Making Plastic and find out for yourself some of the characteristics of a polymer.