April 27 1896, the world found its father of synthetic polymer era, Wallace Hume Carothers. In a short span of life, of almost 41 years only, Carothers could successfully pioneer the birth of the compound called polymer. He was born in Burlington, Iowa. He pursued the higher degree in chemistry in the University of Illinois. In 1924 he completed his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Roger Adams. With the recommendations of Prof. Adams, Carothers moved to university of Harvard, taking the position of a chemistry instructor.
Founded in 1802, DuPont Company was one of the leaders in producing the explosives. Dr. Charles Stine whose job at DuPont was to make safer handling of explosives and later became the vice president of the company, in 1926, could manage to get an approval from the company, for establishing a laboratory for fundamental research. Carothers found his fate lying in working for this laboratory. In just 6 years he could publish 28 papers on the principles of the polycondensation reaction. During this time at DuPont, Carothers tried to understand and communicate many seminal works of fundamental importance. In 1935 the team led by Carothers could create polyamide 6-6 which was later named as nylon. Among other discoveries were neoprene, a synthetic rubber, super polymer, the first polyester.
With the advent of Polymer, started the modern lifestyle. Things that are part of our daily life today, from the shoe sole to the soft drink bottles, plumbing pipes, and parachute, are all a boon of this field. With the massive production of nylon, DuPont could lead the way to supply parachute, powder bags and other related war equipment during the Second World War to the United States.
Unfortunately, Carothers used to suffer from the chronic depression and mood swings. His unhappiness grew further with the death of his sister. One evening, in 1937 he committed suicide by drinking a cocktail of lemon juice with potassium cyanide. The unfortunate end of this legend deprived him of the Nobel Prize to be conferred upon in 1953 in the area of polymer science.
The Good Morning Science team pays their tribute to this great researcher.