June 20, 2014, - 4:26 pm

Stephanie Kwolek, Who Saved Thousands of US Soldiers’, Cops’ Lives, RIP: Female Inventor Who Did It wOUT Affirmative Action

By Debbie Schlussel

Seven years ago, I told you about the great Stephanie Kwolek, who saved thousands of American soldiers’ and cops’ lives by inventing Kevlar. Sadly, Wednesday, she died at 90, a notable exception to the Billy Joel Age Corollary: “only the good die young.”


Kevlar Inventor, Stephanie Kwolek

You probably never heard of her (other than on this site and maybe a few other places) because Kwolek was truly brilliant in her own right and got everywhere through hard work, talent, and inner wisdom, NOT through affirmative-action-based-on-vagina-possession and the dumbing down of science and math in America. She was not a poster child of the NOW hags or “The View-opause” hags or Hillary Clinton or Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Hussein Obama Idi Amin Dada or FOX News for exactly these reasons. True talent, genius, and brilliance is a threat to all of those parties. As I noted seven years ago, I loved Kwolek’s story especially because she was an old fashioned American inventor, the kind America used to produce in abundance and the kind you never see coming out of anywhere in the Muslim Mid-East (though you’ll see quite a few like her in Israel).

And unlike self-sung feminists, Kwolek is modest and shares credit for Kevlar with the man who helped perfect it. An excerpt of what I wrote then:

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. . . .

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.” . . .

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.

But, hey, why would American kids want to study science and toil to make such a great invention . . . when they can aspire to be a “Real Housewife,” a Kardashian porn star, or a “Teen Mom” and make gazillions?

And that’s why we are seeing and will continue to see fewer and fewer Stephanie Kwoleks sprouting in America. Sadly.

Stephanie Kwolek, a truly great American, Rest In Peace.

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15 Responses

A very nice tribute, Debbie.

MominMinnesota on June 20, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Rest in peace, noble one.

Darrell L. Hicks on June 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm

good job

elrancho on June 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm

“NOT through affirmative-action-based-on-vagina-possession and the dumbing down of science and math in America” – LOL

elrancho on June 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm


Thanks for tribute. As you stated many lives were saved due to her superb invention. If you look at the Second Chance Body Armor web site, you will note that over 1800 Law Enforcement lives have been saved due to that particular brand of body armor made from Kevlar. God knows how many Soldiers lives were saved in the past 20 years due to body armor made from Kevlar. I should be noted how humble this brilliant woman was concerning her discovery and contribution. She was not willing to take all the credit for her discovery.

RIP Ms. Kwolek

Peter on June 20, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Thank you.

All of us in law enforcement and the military are eternally in your debt.

Eternal rest, grant unto her, oh Lord.

StillShakingMyHead on June 20, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Great story. R.I.P.,Stephanie Kwolek.

DS_ROCKS! on June 21, 2014 at 12:31 am

A truly gifted woman who saved a lot of lives. She’ll be missed.
I wish I’d known about her when I was a kid, expressing the wish to be a scientist or astronaut. My family and teachers told me women couldn’t do those things.

Michelle on June 21, 2014 at 1:47 pm

It’s never too late, Michelle. Girls can do pretty much anything they want. Debbie is a pretty good example herself. Sneaking in to mosques???!!!?!?!!!! Just ask any of the Crips, Bloods, MS13 or Sinhaloa Cartel to do that. Look at some of the great women of the Bible. Great women are all around us, even in societies that are dominated by machismo and peppered with domestic violence.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on June 22, 2014 at 12:54 am

Debbie, thank you for this tribute. Stephanie Kwolek was a year older than my mother, who also got her B.S. in Chemistry, at a time when most women in college were there to become teachers. After winning a Westinghouse scholarship competition, my mother was offered a free ride to a university in her state. When she graduated she went to work in the research labs at a couple of different Fortune 500 companies, doing such diverse work as paper chemistry and metallurgy.

My mom didn’t invent anything noteworthy, but she was a true feminist. She worked in an environment where only the men got promoted, and she had to put her boss’ name on any papers, etc., that she wrote for publication. But she plugged away and took those first steps toward equality in the workplace by dint of her hard work and brain power. She raised her daughters to aspire to more. She taught us to get an education, get a job, work for a few years and then if you decide to get married, go ahead. She is very proud that her daughters achieved far more than she even dreamed of. But it was women like Stephanie Kwolek and my mom who made that possible.

M: Your mother sounds like a terrific person. DS

MIGirl on June 22, 2014 at 12:09 pm

She was a great woman who was genuinely modest. Kwolek was not some Sally R?ide, but a woman who actually accomplished something. Debbie is correct is saying that fewer and fewer woman like Stephanie Kwolek will appear in our decadent society, since we now reward the talentless and inane.

Worry01 on June 22, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Recognized by Seattle PD Twitter Account


Jimmy Joe on June 23, 2014 at 8:45 pm

A superb Scientist with modesty and perseverance.

Occam's Tool on June 23, 2014 at 9:01 pm

The problem is that we spend our time following the Kardashians in the country, instead of great female scientific and medical minds. The Doctor at University of Mississippi Medical center who did breakthrough work on childhood HIV infection got maybe a day.

Thank you, Debbie, for this.

Occam's Tool on June 23, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Great article and I thank you for writing it; still I’m quite surprised to see a positive article on a Polish American on this site.
Good work this time Ms. Schlussel and keep fighting for the truth. I have quite ambivalent feelings about your writings, but I must give you some praise, when it’s due.

Bart on June 25, 2014 at 7:37 am

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