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From the archives: The 1920s

We capture the moment in 1928 that Wallace Carothers leaves Harvard for DuPont

by Alexander H. Tullo
March 25, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 10

Logo with text "A look back at how C&EN has covered noteworthy events in chemistry over the past 100 years."

In the 1920s, C&EN—then called Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, News Edition—was dedicated almost entirely to the practical needs of industrial chemists. Most of the content was notices about new equipment and books, advertisements for upcoming symposia, and short announcements of chemists who were changing jobs. In the March 20, 1928, issue, the lead story—“St. Louis as an Industrial Center”—ballyhoos the city’s access to railroads. That same issue carries a small notice of a job change that would have enormous consequences for the chemical industry and beyond. It states that Wallace H. Carothers was hired away from Harvard University to join E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (now called DuPont) at the Experimental Station in Wilmington, Delaware. A chemist leaving academia to conduct basic research at a company was a watershed for the maturation of industrial R&D. And the appointment was a milestone in the evolution of synthetic polymers. At DuPont, Carothers invented nylon 6,6, which the company immediately put to use as a substitute for silk in stockings and later as a military parachute material. His team also conducted key research on polyester and neoprene rubber.

A clipping of an old C&EN article. The headline reads "Among Chemists". There is a zoomed in section of the article with a highlighted excerpt.
Credit: C&EN Archives


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