Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014): A Science Mentor and Inventor of Kevlar

Science MentorWhile working as a chemist at Dupont to find a substance to strengthen radial tires, Ms. Kwolek discovered Kevlar, a substance that is 50 times stronger than steel and best known for its use in body armor, bulletproof vests, other protective equipment, as well as in a variety of sports equipment.

Right from her initial discovery of this polymer she credited all the members of her research team with aiding in the discovery. As a result of Kevlar’s ability to save lives, a Kevlar Survivors’ Club was formed which was a partnership between DuPont and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The former manager of the club, a retired police chief said at least 3,200 lives were saved by Kevlar, and one of them was his son, who served in Iraq. “When you think about what she has done, it’s incredible. There’s literally thousands and thousands of people alive because of her. She could look back on her life and say, ‘Yeah, I made a difference.’”

Ms. Kwolek’s mentoring of younger scientists, especially women and young children, resulted in a variety of awards including the 1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award.

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