Stephanie Kwolek Historic Marker
Backstory and Context
Stephanie Kwolek was born in the Pittsburgh suburbs of New Kensington PA in the year of 1923. Kwolek grow up with a passion of outdoors and nature due to her father loving the outdoors and was a huge nature advocate. This exposure of outdoor life started the basis of Kwolek's passion for chemistry. Kwolek's mother was a house wife and liked to make fabric and this also played a part in Kwolek passion for fashion as well. However, she wanted to combine natural elements and fabric together and this would lead to her greatest discover.
Stephanie Kwolek pursued a bachelors degree in chemistry at Margaret Morrison Carnegie University in hope of landing a job in the medical field. However, Kwolek wanted to pursue fashion but knew she was to much of a perfectionist for the field and would not make it. So, Kwolek had teaching chemistry in mind rather it be in a high school or university. Since she excelled so much in the chemistry field she wanted to explore and research it farther. After achieving her B.A. in chemistry she thought she would temporally apply for a job for research before applying for medical school. She decided to apply for a position at DuPont as a chemical researcher.
When Kwolek applied to the position at DuPont she knew she had given up her motivation to go to medical school and had to persistently call in and ask if they reviewed her resume. Kwolek got the position over a good amount of people who applied and was one of the lead research members that tested fibers to be applied to new tires. Her passion for research begin to grow and grow which lead to her abandoning medical school and pursuing chemical research as a career. Kwolek made it a mission to work with specific fibers under specific temperatures. Kwolek discovered that petroleum based synthetic fibers under certain conditions turned their molecules into parallel shaped rodlike polyamides. These rodlike polyamides were durable, strong and stiff. DuPont allowed for a launching pad of this invention called kevlar.
In today's application of kevlar it is used in law enforcement, military, tires and even in cars. It has over 200 applications but most importantly has saved millions of lives. Today's body armor is founded on kevlar and is a major advancement not only in women's history but modern science. Stephanie Kwolek has been awarded with foundations, awards, recognition and a historical marker in her hometown of New Kensington PA.
“Stephanie Kwolek.” Stephanie Kwolek: Inventor of Kevlar®. Accessed May 7, 2020. http://www.women-inventors.com/Stephanie-Kwolek.asp.
“Stephanie Kwolek (1923–2014).” American Chemical Society. Accessed May 7, 2020. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/women-scientists/stephanie-kwolek.html.
“Stephanie Kwolek Historical Marker.” Historical Marker, August 24, 2018. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=98328.
“Stephanie L. Kwolek.” Science History Institute, December 9, 2017. https://www.sciencehistory.org/historical-profile/stephanie-l-kwolek.