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Stephanie Kwolek
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Inventor
    (July 31, 1923-June 18, 2014)
    Born in New Kensington, Pennsylvania
    Research chemist at DuPont (1946-86)
    Held 17 patents
    Invented the synthetic fiber Kevlar (1966)
    Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (1995)
    Received the National Medal of Technology (1997)
    Growing up, she wanted to become a fashion designer, but her mother warned her she would probably starve in that business because she was such a perfectionist.
    She initially planned to work at DuPont only long enough to earn money to attend med school.
    She admitted that she had not anticipated Kevlar's properties when she synthesized it and called the result 'a case of serendipity.'
    Developing practical applications for Kevlar was done by other DuPont scientists.
    She decided to give up med school and stick with chemistry because 'Each day there was something new, a new challenge, and I loved that.'
    Because she signed over her patents to DuPont, she did not receive a cut of the billions in royalties that Kevlar earned for the company.
    By the time of her death, Kevlar body armor had saved the lives of over 3,000 law enforcement officers.
    She said, 'I feel very lucky. So many people work all their lives and they don't make a discovery that's of benefit to other people.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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