Stephanie L. Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar — the material used in bullet-proof vests — has passed away at age 90.
Kwolek invented Kevlar in 1969 when working at DuPont. It is best known for stopping bullets, but the material is also used in tires, firefighter's boots, hockey sticks and many other things. (Via NBC)
Kwolek was part of a team trying to create a fiber to replace steel in radial tires. She created a liquid crystal polymer that when dissolved and pressed through a colander-like-device became a fiber five times stronger than steel — thus, Kevlar. (Via Bloomberg)
The New York Times reports that Kwolek was a pioneer for women in science at a time when there were hardly any women in the field. She spent 15 years working in the laboratory at DuPont without a promotion before discovering Kevlar.
DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman said in a statement: "We are all saddened at the passing of DuPont scientist Stephanie Kwolek. ... She leaves a wonderful legacy of thousands of lives saved and countless injuries prevented by products made possible by her discovery." (Via Chemistry Heritage Foundation)
In 1994 Kwolek was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. She was the fourth woman among 113 members. (Via National Inventors Hall of Fame)
"It's been a truly satisfying discovery. I don't think there is anything like saving someone's life to bring you satisfaction and happiness." (Via Chemistry Heritage Foundation)
Kwolek tutored high school students in chemistry after her retirement, and focused on motivating women towards a career in science.