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Wallace Hume Carothers
1896 - 1937
Brilliant Research Chemist Who Discovered Nylon, Neoprene

Wallace Hume Carothers is acknowledged by his peers as one of America's great chemists. He was the discoverer-developer of nylon, the first of a host of petrochemical-derived synthetic fibers. Neoprene, a synthetic rubber, was another of his discoveries. ■ His discoveries and developments in the DuPont laboratories eventually became important worldwide industries. The life of this brilliant chemist with an international reputation was cut short at 41 when even greater innovations were expected of him. ■ Wallace H. Carothers as born April 27, 1896, in Burlington, Iowa. His ancestry was Scottish on both paternal and maternal sides. The Carothers family migrated from Scotland to Pennsylvania about 1750. On his mother's side, the McMullins were Ulster Scots. ■ Classmates recall that Wallace was generally the brightest student regardless of the subject. He received his B.S. degree from Takio College and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1924. ■ He became heavily involved in theoretical chemistry while teaching at Illinois and later at Harvard in 1926. In 1928 the DuPont Company organized a fundamental research laboratory in Wilmington and asked Carothers to run it. From then until his death in 1937, his discoveries were numerous and significant. ■ His fame brought him membership in the National Academy of Science. He worked hard and spent long hours in the DuPont Laboratories, which may have intensified the nervous disorder that led to poor health and black depression. ■ In spite of many honors and international acclaim, Carothers couldn't shake off the despairing moods that resulted in his death in Philadelphia on April 29, 1937.
 

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546

2014