July 5, 2007, - 10:28 am
By Debbie Schlussel
I love the stories of American invention and ingenuity. The only other place where you’ll find such pioneering and creativity is in Israel. You certainly won’t find it in Islamic countries, where they have few discoveries (if any) and even fewer patents from scientists. They’re too busy focusing on hating and destroying us–infidel non-Muslims–to worry about inventing and discovering new things that make life better and more convenient for all people and even save lives.
Take Stephanie Kwolek.
You’ve probably never heard of her, but if you have indestructible luggage or you’re a member of law enforcement of a soldier, she made your life better. (Ditto for millions of moms and others who use oven mitts to avoid burning her hands.) And she saved thousands of lives. The 4’11″, 83-year-old scientific pioneer discovered Kevlar for DuPont.
Kwolek, who was 42 at the time, had little advanced science education. She has only a bachelors degree in chemistry. But this real-life Mother of Invention did more for America than scientists with Ph.Ds. And her success highlights that we have fewer and fewer like her, today, as American kids avoid studying and pursuing science.
We need more of them to grow up to be like her and develop and discover new technologies, which will–as she did–save thousands of lives of Americans fighting to keep us safe.
Feminists accuse me of hating women when I attack Oprah or the amateur hoopsters in the WNBA. Absolutely false. What I hate is that America celebrates, promotes, and worships these empty vessel-ettes for contributing nothing to America and for their anti-achievements. Instead, we need to celebrate more of the truly great women in America–people like Kwolek. You don’t see the Gloria Steinems of the world trumpeting Kwolek’s incredible contribution. Kwolek impacted our lives for the better, and yet, we’ve hardly heard of her.
More on this incredible woman:
In the mid-1960s, Kwolek was a researcher at the DuPont Co. in Wilmington when she stumbled on the discovery that became the chemistry that led to the strong, lightweight fiber known as Kevlar. Pound for pound, Kevlar fiber is five times stronger than steel.
More than 3,000 law enforcement officers have survived potentially fatal or disabling injuries because of the golden-colored fiber that is spun into the sheets used in vests, helmets and shields, according to DuPont research. Since the first Gulf War in 1991, nearly every U.S. combat soldier has worn a helmet of Kevlar, according to DuPont data.
“She’s one of my heroes,” said Ron McBride, a consultant to the Kevlar Survivors’ Club of Richmond, Va., a nonprofit partnership between DuPont and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “I was a police officer for 35 years, and there are people walking around because of her.”
While the news of the death and destruction in Iraq makes Kwolek feel “sick,” she hopes her work has done some good for the men and women serving in the military there.
“At least, I’m hoping I’m saving lives,” Kwolek said. “There are very few people in their careers that have the opportunity to do something to benefit mankind.”
One of those whose lives Kwolek helped save in Delaware is Master Cpl. David E. Spicer, a Dover police detective. Spicer was shot four times in the line of duty March 24, 2001. One shot made a 10-inch cut in the right side of his vest.
“I would have been dead, without a doubt,” Spicer said.
Besides body armor, the fiber is used in products ranging from oven mitts to tires, from airplane parts to mattresses.
Kwolek is scrupulous about taking credit only for the initial discovery of a technology that was used in the development of Kevlar. She credits the team of scientists who worked on the development, particularly DuPont scientist Herbert Blades. . . .
Kwolek was a 42-year-old scientist in search of a super-strong fiber to reinforce radial tires at DuPont’s Experimental Station when she invented a thin, milky solution of rigid-chain polymers that flowed like water from her lab spatula. It wasn’t exactly a “eureka moment,” but she felt she might be on to something.
Most polymers have the viscosity of molasses. Because the solution was so watery, the research technician didn’t want to put it into the machine that spins fiber, she said.
It spun beautifully. And the physical test results were off the charts in terms of strength and stiffness.
Initially, Kwolek said, she was afraid to tell her managers. She tested and retested to make sure no mistakes had been made.
“I didn’t want to be embarrassed. When I did tell management, they didn’t fool around. They immediately assigned a whole group to work on different aspects,” she said.
During that period, Kwolek said, they all worked under tremendous pressure.
“It was very exciting, let me tell you,” Kwolek said.
She recalled how excited she was when former DuPont scientist Paul J. Flory visited the Experimental Station. Flory won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1974.
“He came and talked to me, and he told me that I had proven his theoretical conditions for the formation of polymer liquid crystals,” Kwolek said.
In technical terms, Kwolek invented a liquid crystalline solution of synthetic aromatic polyamides, from which she spun a very strong and stiff fiber.
Her advice to young American girls who are, indeed, interested in science:
For young women interested in science careers, Kwolek suggested they get a doctorate and have at least two majors — for example, chemistry and math. If she were doing it all over again, Kwolek said, she would get into biochemistry.
“There’s some pretty horrible diseases that we need more advances” in treating, she said.
Stephanie Kwolek, a great American. We need much more like her.
Tags: consultant, Corporal, David E. Spicer, Delaware, detective, disabling injuries, Dover police, DuPont Co., Experimental Station, Herbert Blades, International Association of Chiefs, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Iraq, Kevlar Survivors' Club of Richmond, law enforcement officers, liquid crystalline solution, milky solution, Paul J. Flory, police officer, research technician, researcher, Richmond, Ron McBride, scientist, steel, Stephanie Kwolek, United States, Virginia