Stephanie was born in the 1920s, in a dirty and overcrowded suburb of Pittsburgh. In those days, the area now known as The Point/Point State Park
was mostly industrial, and the miasma of smoke and other toxic fumes darkened the air such that lamps were occasionally lit during the day. The
junction of the three rivers there roiled with human effluvia and other industrial contamination and was not only undrinkable, but toxic to the skin.
Stephanie’s mother Nellie, instilled in her an interest in sewing, stitching, fashion and fabrics, and from her father, John, she grew to love the
natural sciences. This was toward the beginning of the Depression, and Nellie was fortunate to have a job with an aluminium company. She wanted
desperately for her daughter to have a formal education, and worked late and long hours to provide for her daughter, having never had the time nor
opportunity to properly grieve for her lost husband.
Stephanie though she wanted to go into medicine, perhaps be a nurse or even a physician. These were very difficult times and the living conditions
were crowded, dirty and hectic.
Stephanie graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1946 with a BS in Chemistry, and though her aspirations were still toward a career in medicine,
she took a position with DuPont. Her research stimulated her, and she grew to be fascinated with polymer studies and fabrics. One of the first
polymers of the time was nylon, and she conducted experiments with weaving it, and cross-polymerization.
Kwolek specialized in developing low-temperature processes for finding petroleum-based synthetic fibers of incredible strength and rigidity.
Assigned to finding the next generation of fibers that could withstand extreme conditions, Kwolek’s work involved preparing intermediates,
synthesizing aromatic polyamides of high molecular weight, dissolving the polyamides in solvents, and spinning these solutions into fibers.
In 1970, Stephanie Kwolek’s research resulted in the discovery of a liquid crystal polymer solution that culminated in the fabric we know today as
Kevlar, a completely synthetic material several times stronger – and more impervious – than steel.
Kevlar, best known for bulletproof vests, is also used in spacecraft, safety helmets, and fiberoptic cables, just to name a few of its uses.
Stephanie Kwolek spearheaded polymer research at DuPont's Pioneering Lab until her retirement, as Research Associate, in 1986. She is recipient
or co-recipient of 17 US patents, including one for the spinning method that made commercial aramid fibers feasible, and 5 for the prototype from
which Kevlar® was created. Kwolek continues to consult part-time for DuPont, where she is also known and respected as a mentor to young
....... and a special nod of the head in remembrance to historian Paul Harvey. Miss you.