Carothers, Wallace Hume, 1896-1937

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1896-04-27
Death 1937-04-29

Biographical notes:

Wallace H. Carothers was born in Burlington Iowa on April 27, 1896. He attended undergraduate and graduate classes at the University of Illinois, Urbana where he studied under Roger Adam. In 1928 after several years teaching undergraduates at Harvard he accepted a position in Du Pont's newly formed fundamental research program. By 1930 he and his group, which included Julian W. Hill and the future Nobel Laureate in chemistry, Paul Flory, discovered both Nylon and Neoprene. Carothers was plagued by life long depression and in 1937 committed suicide.

From the description of Papers of Wallace H. Carothers, 1924-1978. (Chemical Heritage Foundation). WorldCat record id: 123984574

Wallace H. Carothers was born on April 27, 1896 in Burlington, Iowa. In 1915 he enrolled in Tarkio College (Missouri) as a chemistry major. In 1920 he enrolled in the chemistry department of the University of Illinois, where he studied under Dr. Roger Adams, completing his Ph.D. in 1924 with a specialization in organic chemistry. In 1926 he was appointed instructor of organic chemistry at Harvard University. Two years later when the Du Pont Company embarked on a fundamental research program at the Wilmington Experimental Station, Carothers was selected to head the research unit in organic chemistry. In 1929 Carothers was elected Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Carothers' work at Du Pont focused on polymerization and the ways in which polymers structurally analogous to cellulose and silk could be prepared. The result was "fiber 66," the first completely synthetic fiber, patented in 1937 and marketed by Du Pont under the name Nylon. Wallace Carothers committed suicide on April 29, 1937.

From the description of Papers, 1925-1936. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122458787

Wallace Hume Carothers, the discoverer of nylon, the first completely synthetic fiber, was born on April 27, 1896, in Burlington, Iowa. He studied chemistry at Tarkio College in Missouri and at the University of Illinois, where he received a Ph. D. in organic chemistry in 1924. Carothers taught at Harvard between 1926 and 1928, when he was selected by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. to head its research unit in organic chemistry. Carothers committed suicide on April 29, 1937, the same year in which nylon was patented.

From the description of Letters to Francis Gelvin Spencer, 1929-1933 [photocopies]. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 726184712

Wallace Hume Carothers was the discoverer of Nylon.

Carothers was a chemist in E.I. du Pont de Nemours ? received his B.A. at Tarkio College in Missouri and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Illinois. In 1926 he went to Harvard University as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and two years later he began work at the Du Pont Company. At Du Pont, Carothers did research on polymerization theory. In early 1930 the chemists in Carothers' laboratory produced neoprne (synthetic rubber) and the first laboratory-synthesized fiber. In 1934, still working on polymerization theory, Carothers produced the first polyamide fiber which was later to become known as nylon. During the next two years, Carothers suffered frequent bouts of depression. On April 29, 1937, three weeks after the basic nylon patent application was filed, he committed suicide.

From the description of Laboratory notebooks, 1928-1937. (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122405898

Wallace Hume Carothers, the inventor of nylon, was born on April 17, 1896 at Burlington, Iowa. At the age of five, his family moved to Des Moines, where his father, Ira Hume Carothers, was a professor at the Capital City Commercial College. In high school, Carothers became interested in chemistry after reading Robert Kennedy Duncan's popular books on the subject. After graduating high school, he attended Capital City Commercial College for a year. In the fall of 1915 he entered Tarkio College in Missouri as a science major, paying his way by also teaching in the commercial division and acting as private secretary to one of the administrators. When his chemistry professor, Arthur M. Pardee, left Tarkio for the University of South Dakota, Carothers filled in as instructor, although only an undergraduate.

After graduating from Tarkio in 1920, Carothers obtained an M.S. in organic chemistry at the University of Illinois in 1921. By teaching courses in analytical and physical chemistry under Pardee at South Dakota in 1921-22, Carothers earned enough to return to Illinois and complete his Ph.D. in 1924. He taught at Illinois in 1924-26 and at Harvard in 1926-28 before being recruited for Du Pont by Charles M. A. Stine on the promise that he would be allowed free rein to pursue pure research. His work at Du Pont culminated in two major innovations, Neoprene (artificial rubber) and nylon. Although fun-loving and well-rounded, Carothers suffered from bouts of severe depression all of his adult life. The death of his sister contributed to a major breakdown in the summer of 1936, and Carothers committed suicide in a Philadelphia hotel room on April 29, 1937.

From the description of Letters to W. G. Machetanz, 1915-1947 (bulk, 1917-1922). (Hagley Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122547155

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Subjects:

  • Rubber, Artificial
  • Carbon compounds
  • Chemists
  • Aldehyde
  • Chemistry
  • Technological innovations
  • Molecular weights
  • Chemistry, Organic
  • Chemical industry
  • Textile fibers, synthetic
  • Atomic weights
  • Melting points
  • Amides
  • Chemical engineering
  • acid
  • Neoprene
  • Polymers
  • Polymerization
  • Nylon
  • Archival materials
  • Polyamide fibers
  • Laboratory notebooks
  • Research, Industrial

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Delaware (as recorded)