Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dr. Carothers began his academic career as a faculty member of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1924. He also was the head of the chemistry department at Tarkio College in Missouri, a position that he took on while he was still a student. He moved to Harvard University in 1926, and then came to DuPont to work on polymers in 1928. In April 1931, Carothers' team discovered neoprene, the first synthetic rubber, and synthesized the first polyester superpolymer, the precursor to nylon. Several years later, Carothers carried out the experiments that resulted in the production of nylon. In 1936, he became the first industrial chemist to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Carothers, thought to suffer from manic-depression, committed suicide in 1937 by drinking a potassium cyanide solution. His death came two years before the introduction of nylon fiber and the resulting synthetic fiber revolution.
Dr. Carothers was an avid reader of poetry and lover of classical music. He was survived by his wife and a daughter, Jane, he never knew as he killed himself when his wife was just two months pregnant with their only child.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation published "Enough for One Lifetime, Wallace Carothers the Inventor of Nylon," in 1996. The biography was written by Dr. Matt Hermes who worked at the Central Research Department at DuPont where Carothers completed his seminal work.
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