This collection consists of two and one half hours of original (BetaCam SP), master (BetaCam SP) and reference (viewing) copies (VHS), documenting a lecture program for children on March 25, 1996 by Stephanie Kwolek, inventor of Kevlar. Kwolek discusses her invention of Kevlar as well as her background and life experiences.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of two and one half hours of original (betaCam SP), master (BetaCam SP) and reference (viewing) copies (VHS), documenting a lecture program for children on March 25, 1996 by Stephanie Kwolek, inventor of Kevlar. Kwolek discusses her invention of Kevlar as well as her background and life experiences.
The collection is divided into three series.
Series 1, Reference Videos, 1996
Series 2, Master Videos, 1996
Series 3, Original Videos, 1996
Biographical / Historical:
Stephanie L. Kwolek was born in 1923 in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. She earned a bachelors degree in chemistry from Margaret Morrison Carnegie College, now known as Carnegie Mellon University, in 1946. Upon graduating 1946, Kwolek joined the DuPont Company in Buffalo, New York, where she worked in the Textile Fibers Pioneering Research Laboratory. In the laboratory she researched and developed new synthetic fibers. Kwolek's specialty at DuPont was low-temperature polymerization. She discovered the first liquid crystal polymers, which created an entire branch of research and invention. In 1964, Kwolek began searching for new high-performance chemical compounds. By 1965, she had discovered a compound that, when spun into fiber, was very strong and stiff. She found that the rigidness of this fiber nearly doubled when exposed to heat. The final product resulted in Kevlar (US Patent 3,819,587; RE 30,352) a high-performance aramid fiber used in bullet-resistant vests, crash helmets, boat shells, and radial tires.
Kevlar provides low stretch or elongation, improved cut resistance, better heat resistance, increased strength, reduced weight, and better impact resistance. Kwolek received a patent for Kevlar in 1971. During her forty year career, Kwolek received twenty-eight patents. She retired from DuPont in 1986.
Kwolek has received various awards for her invention, including the American Society of Metals Award in 1978, and both the American Chemical Society Creative Invention Award and the American Institute of Chemists Chemical Pioneer Ward in 1980. In July of 1995, Kwolek was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 1996 she received the National Medal of Technology, and in 1997 the Perkin Medal was presented by the American Section of the Society of Chemical Industry to Kwolek. Both honors are rarely awarded to women. Kwolek received the 1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award for her innovations in the polymers industry, most notably her invention of Kevlar®.
Howell, Caitlan. Innovative Lives, Stephanie Kwolek and Kevlar, the Wonder Fiber, 1996.
Stephanie L. Kwolek
Created by the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, March 25, 1996.
The collection is open for research use. Series 3, Original Videos (BetaCam SP) is stored off-site. Arrangements must be made with the Archives Center two weeks prior to a scheduled visit.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions. Release forms exist.