Thursday, 26 June 2014


My obituary of Stephanie Kwolek, who invented Kevlar, is up at the Guardian online (you can link to it here) and ought to be in the paper paper soon. It's a fascinating story, mostly because of the accidental nature of her invention; as it seems is so often the case, she was perceptive and curious enough to take an experiment others might have considered failed, and pursue it just another step further.

I might have made more of Kwolek's success in an overwhelmingly male profession, an overwhelmingly male lab environment, at a time when the deck was stacked against women in the work place anyway. It intrigued me that she appears to have devoted herself to her work; there was no indication of survivors nor relationships, which isn't to say she had none.
I mentioned she was the first, and remains the only, woman to be awarded DuPont's Lavoisier research award; I had also written she was only the fourth woman inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and that she was also inducted into the National Women's Hall Of Fame, but those mentioned were edited out. As was the mention of a children's book about her,The Woman Who Invented the Thread That Stops Bullets.

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