Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937)

Born on April 27, 1896, in Burlington, Iowa, Wallace Carothers was an American chemist and the leader of organic chemistry at DuPont and is credited with the invention of nylon.

He entered Capital City Commercial College in Des Moines in 1914 and graduated a year later in accountancy and secretarial administration.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1921 from the University of Illinois, Carothers went to the University of South Dakota, where he began his independent research at the same time he was a chemistry instructor.

After teaching for a year, Carothers returned to the University of Illinois in 1922 to work under Roger Adams. He earned a PhD from the University of Illinois in 1924 with specialty in organic chemistry. He was acclaimed as ‘one of the most brilliant students who had ever been awarded the doctor’s degree at Illinois’.

Carothers was then recruited by Harvard but after three semesters there DuPont offered him the task of organizing the company’s research in organic chemistry and especially polymerization.

Soon he had assembled the team of talented research scientists who would play a major part in the development of nylon. His first paper on polymerization appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in 1929.

In 1936 Carothers was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the first industrial organic chemist to receive this honor.
Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937)

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