| WASHINGTON, June 20
WASHINGTON, June 20 Stephanie Kwolek, an
American chemist who in 1965 invented a super-strong fiber
called Kevlar that revolutionized body armor and protected
innumerable police officers and soldiers from bullets, has died
at age 90.
Kwolek, who worked for the DuPont chemical company
for four decades starting in 1946, died in Delaware after a
short illness. The company confirmed her death.
"We are all saddened at the passing of DuPont scientist
Stephanie Kwolek, a creative and determined chemist and a true
pioneer for women in science," DuPont Chief Executive Ellen
Kullman said in a statement. "Her synthesis of the first liquid
crystal polymer and the invention of DuPont Kevlar highlighted a
The 4-foot-11 Kwolek was working to find a fiber to
strengthen radial tires when she came across a thin, milky
solution of polymers that showed real promise.
She told the News Journal newspaper in Wilmington, Delaware,
in 2007 that it was not exactly a "eureka moment." But it led to
the development of Kevlar, now a critical part of bulletproof
vests, helmets and other body armor components as well as a
range of other applications like tires, firefighter suits, boat
hulls, fiber optic cables, fuel hoses, airplane and spacecraft
parts and skis.
Kevlar is lightweight but extremely strong - five times
tougher than steel.
"At least, I'm hoping I'm saving lives," Kwolek told the
newspaper. "There are very few people in their careers that have
the opportunity to do something to benefit mankind."
She was careful to take credit for only the initial
discovery of the technology that led to the development of
Kevlar and credited the work of others involved in the efforts.
In the 2007 comments, she said she was afraid to tell her
managers and conducted repeated tests just to make sure.
"I didn't want to be embarrassed. When I did tell
management, they didn't fool around. They immediately assigned a
whole group to work on different aspects," she said.
Kwolek was born on July 31, 1923, in New Kensington,
Pennsylvania, graduated from Carnegie Institution of Technology
with a chemistry degree and was hired by Dupont a year after the
end of World War Two.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Bill Trott)