Wallace Hume Carothers
Born Apr 27 1896 - Died Apr 29 1937
Diamine-Dicarboxylic Acid Salts and Process of Preparing Same; Synthetic Fiber
Patent Number(s) 2,130,947; 2,130,948
Wallace Hume Carothers, who has been called one of the most brilliant organic chemists ever employed by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, spent only nine years at Du Pont before his death. But in that time he made contributions to the theory of organic chemistry that led to the invention of polymeric materials such as the synthetic materials nylon and neoprene, the first commercially successful synthetic rubber. During his brief period at Du Pont, Carothers first worked on the polymerization of acetylene and its derivatives; this led to the development by other scientists of neoprene.
His most outstanding work involved the theory of linear polymerization, which he tested by synthesizing a large number of polymers structurally similar to cellulose and silk. This work culminated in the production of nylon, which is today used in a wide variety of applications including apparel, carpeting, home furnishings, and industrial products. The invention of nylon marked the beginning of a new era of synthetic fibers which is still expanding.
Born in Burlington, Iowa, Carothers was educated in the public schools of Des Moines. He first studied accounting and secretarial courses then entered Tarkio College as a science student while simultaneously holding assistantships in English and commercial studies. After receiving a B.S. from Tarkio, Carothers obtained his master's and doctor's degrees from the University of Illinois. He held teaching positions briefly at the University of South Dakota, University of Illinois, and Harvard University before joining Du Pont in 1928 as head of fundamental research in organic chemistry.