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Stephanie L. Kwolek

Stephanie Kwolek

CHF Collections, Photograph by Harry Kalish

  • Born: July 31, 1923, New Kensington, Pennsylvania
  • Died: June 17, 2014, Talleyville, Delaware

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0028
Interview Date: May 4, 1986
Location: Sharpley, Delaware
Interviewer: Raymond C. Ferguson
No. of pages: 37
Minutes: 120

  Abstract of Interview

Stephanie Kwolek starts this interview by describing her family background. Her father's early death meant that her mother had to work to support Kwolek and her brother, who later became a chemical engineer. At the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Kwolek shifted her interests from medicine to chemistry. Deciding to enter industry, she accepted a position with the Rayon Department of DuPont at Buffalo. There, she started her career in polymer synthesis and worked with Izard, Wittbecker, and Morgan. When the laboratory moved to Wilmington, Kwolek was associated with the low ­temperature polymerization program. In the interview, Kwolek then discusses the nylon rope trick, DuPont promotion policy, and liquid crystalline polymers. She concludes with her reflections on colleagues and DuPont consultants.


1946 B.S., Chemistry, Carnegie-Mellon University

  Professional Experience

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1946 - 1959 Chemist

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1959 - 1967 Research Chemist

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1967 - 1974 Senior Research Chemist

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1974 - 1986 Research Assoicate

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1986 - present Consultant

National Academy of Sciences, Research Council

1986 - present 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 Metals
1980 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
1980 Award for Creative Invention, American Chemical Society
1981 Honorary Doctor of Science degree, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
1983 Alumni Association Merit Award, Carnegie-Mellon University
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 Laws
1995 Inducted member of the Inventor's Hall of Fame
1997 Perkin Medal, Society of Chemical Industry (American Section)

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Parents and early death of father, mother forced to support Kwolek and her brother. Schooling in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.

College Education 5

Women's college of Carnegie Institute of Technology. Change of interest from medicine to chemistry.

DuPont at Buffalo 8

Decision to take post at DuPont Rayon laboratories. Polymer synthesis with Izard and Wittbecker. Collaboration with Paul Morgan. Social life; salary.

DuPont at Wilmington 13

Reactions to move to Pioneering Research Laboratory. Low-temperature polycondensation; the nylon rope trick. Promotion within DuPont research organization. Liquid crystalline polymers. Colleagues at Wilmington.

Retirement Activities 20

Patent litigation. Polyazomethines. Academic consultants, Flory and Mark.

Notes 32

Index 33

  About the Interviewer

Raymond C. Ferguson

Raymond C. Ferguson obtained his degrees in chemistry from Iowa State University (B.S., M.S.) and Harvard University (Ph.D.). He worked in research divisions of the Organic Chemicals, Elastomer Chemicals, and Central Research Departments of DuPont, principally in molecular spectroscopy, organic structure analysis, and polymer characterization. Currently he is affiliated with CONDUX, Inc., a consulting association of former DuPont professionals.

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