Oral history interview with Stephanie L. Kwolek (1998)
Stephanie Kwolek begins the interview with a discussion of her early career at DuPont. She joined DuPont in 1946, the same year she earned her B.S. in chemistry at Carnegie-Mellon University. Kwolek spent much of her time working on polymers, including aliphatic and aromatic polyamides. She discusses her level of independence in the laboratory, as well as her relationship with her supervisors. Kwolek began work with 1,4-B and was able to get a high molecular weight polymer. It was eventually discovered that the polymer spun beautifully and was quite strong. This polymer became Kevlar. Kwolek describes industry competition, the testing and scale-up of Kevlar, and the problems of confidentiality. She further discusses the relationship between Kevlar and Paul Flory's theory of liquid polymer crystals. Kwolek concludes the interview with comments on her love of writing, her decision to leave DuPont, and the future of polymer research.
|Place of interview|
|Rights||Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License|
About the Interviewer
Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Université Paris X. She holds a doctorate in philosophy from the Sorbonne, and is currently a fellow at the Dibner Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Bensaude-Vincent is the author of numerous articles and books on the history of chemistry and physics, including Eloge du mixte: matériaux nouveaux et philosophie ancienne. In 1997, she received the Dexter Award for outstanding achievement in the history of chemistry.
|Oral history number||0168|
|View in library catalog|
Interviewee biographical information
|1946||Carnegie Mellon University||BS||Chemistry|
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company
- 1946 to 1959 Chemist
- 1959 to 1967 Research Chemist
- 1967 to 1974 Senior Research Chemist
- 1974 to 1986 Research Associate
- 1986 Consultant
National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
- 1986 Research Council, Consultant
|1959||Publication Award, Delaware Section, American Chemical Society|
|1976||Howard N. Potts Medal, Franklin Institute of Philadelphia|
|1978||Award for Contributions to Kevlar (du Pont trademark for aramid fiber), American Society for Medals|
|1980||Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists|
|1980||Award for Creative Invention, American Chemical Society|
|1981||Honorary Doctor of Science Award, Worcester Polytechnic Institute|
|1983||Alumni Association Merit Award, Carnegie-Mellon Universit|
|1985||Engineering/Technology Award, Society of Plastics Engineers|
|1985||Polymer Processing Hall of Fame, University of Akron|
|1988||Harold DeWitt Smith Memorial Award, American Society of Testing Materials|
|1990||du Pont Honoree at the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States Patent and Copyright du Pont Honoree at the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States Patent and Copyright Laws|
|1995||Inducted member of Inventor's Hall of Fame|
|1997||Perkin Medal Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)|
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The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.