Enough for One Lifetime: Wallace Carothers, Inventor of Nylon

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Chemical Heritage Foundation, 1996 - Biography & Autobiography - 345 pages
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This is a story of invention and chemistry and the ineluctable fate of the inventor of nylon. Wallace Carothers was hired by DuPont in 1928 to lead a program called basic research. Carothers brought a passion to his work, and wanted to synthesize large molecules that would challenge Emil Fischer's largest molecule of 4200 molecular weight. In a burst of creativity in the spring of 1930, Carothers gave us our first truly synthetic rubber and fiber. The rubber quickly became neoprene; the fiber, in time, led to nylon. Carothers took an infant science called polymer chemistry, defined it, and guided it toward its present maturity. He gave us condensation polymerization. Hermes tells Carothers' story - his sudden, dramatic research successes and his relentless slide into depression, alcohol, and suicide - through Carothers' revealing letters to his professional colleagues (Roger Adams, C. S. Marvel, John R. Johnson) and his family and college classmates. At the end, Carothers' habit was to hide himself from his co-workers and friends. Hermes' narrative searches for the shrouded heart of the inventor's story by using stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald and other contemporaries as parables from which Carothers' truth may be drawn.
 

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Contents

Tarkio College
1
At Urbana the Best of the Best
21
Paris and Harvard
45
The Road to Pure Science
59
DuPont Hires Carothers
75
Arrow of Discovery
89
We Will Have Quite a Lot of Things in My Division To Show You
103
Elmer Boltons Chemical Department
121
A Gathering of Seven Friends
227
A Second Superb Idea
235
Carothers Marries
249
At the Philadelphia Institute
259
In the Alps with Carothers
271
Isobel Carothers Dies
279
Wallace Carothers Swallows Cyanide and Dies
285
DuPont and Ira Carothers
295

A Synthetic Rubber and a Synthetic Silk Enough for One Lifetime
135
1932 Looks Pretty Black to Me Just Now
145
A Struggle Over Research Objectives
157
The Invention of Nylon
181
Carothers Disappears
191
A Year at Wawaset Park
211
What Is the Family Illness?
309
Chemistry Cited
321
Acknowledgments
327
Bibliography
331
Index
337
Copyright

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