A woman of strength who invented strength, scientist Stephanie Louise Kwolek (1923-) was born in New Kensington, Pennsylvania and graduated in 1946 from the Carnegie Institute of Technology with a degree in chemistry.
"Every person has value, no matter what you do," she believed and right out of college she became a DuPont chemist, who worked with polymers (long molecules) to create strong petroleum-based synthetic fibers. She worked passionately in her creative quest.
"Discovery," said Hungarian researcher Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, "is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought."
In 1965, Kwolek experimented with aromatic polyamides, a polymer with stiff molecular chains and made what she called a "spectacular" discovery-- a brand new fiber, aramid, and a new substance, liquid crystalline solutions. "It was stiffer than glass and very hard to cut even with scissors," she explained.
The "miracle fiber" KevlarŪ was born! Stronger and lighter than steel, the material was first used to create puncture-resistant tires. In 1974, the first bullet-proof vest was made with the material. Lighter than nylon, with half the density of fiberglass, Kevlar, like Superman, can deflect knives and stop bullets.
Today the widely-used product can be found in fiber optic cables, sports equipment, space vehicles, and hundreds of other applications.
"Creative people seem to notice things that other people just don't notice," Kwolek said. Her name appears on 17 patents, seven of them are solely hers.
Great strength can arise from discovery.