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Wallace Hume Carothers

Wallace Hume CarothersBorn: 27-Apr-1896
Birthplace: Burlington, IA
Died: 29-Apr-1937
Location of death: Philadelphia, PA
Cause of death: Suicide [1]

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Inventor of Nylon

American chemist Wallace Hume Carothers researched polymerization while working for DuPont, where he produced the synthetic rubber neoprene in 1930, after inventing a process to convert a barely-known substance called monovinyl acetylene into chloroprene, which is made into neoprene through polymerization. For manufacturing purposes, neoprene was superior to natural rubber, but Carothers' greatest accomplishment came four years later, when he invented nylon, the first synthetic polymer fiber to be produced commercially. Nylon revolutionized the textile industry when it went into mass production in 1940. Carothers, however, did not live long enough to see his great success. He took his own life in 1937 by drinking a glass of lemon juice and potassium cyanide.

His sister, Isobel Berolzheimer, was a radio actress of some fame in her time, for playing the character Lu in the first soap opera to be syndicated across America, Clara, Lu and Em. She died of pneumonia a few months prior to her brother's suicide.


[1] Ingested lemon juice with cyanide.

Father: Ira Hume Carothers (teacher, b. 1869)
Mother: Mary Evalina McMullin Carothers (m. 1895)
Sister: Isobel Carothers Berolzheimer (radio actress, b. 1901, d. 1937)
Wife: Helen Everett Sweetman (clerical worker, m. 21-Feb-1936, one daughter)
Daughter: Jane (b. 27-Nov-1937, after Carothers' death)
Mother: Sylvia Moore (affair 1930s, before and after Carothers' wedding and Moore's divorce)

    High School: North High School, Des Moines, IA (1915)
    University: Capital City Commercial College, Des Moines, IA (attended)
    University:
BS Chemistry, Tarkio College (1920)
    University: MS Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1921)
    University: PhD Organic Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1924)
    Teacher: Chemistry, Tarkio College (1918-21)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University of South Dakota (1921-22)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1924-26)
    Teacher: Chemistry, Harvard University (1926-28)

    DuPont Director of Chemistry Research (1928-37)
    American Chemical Society 1935
    National Academy of Sciences 1936
    National Inventors Hall of Fame 1984
    Journal of the American Chemical Society Associate Editor
    Organic Syntheses Editorial Board
    Irish Ancestry
    Scottish Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Depression

Author of books:
Collected Papers of Wallace Hume Carothers on High Polymeric Substances (1940)


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