Stephanie Kwolek, the famous woman inventor and scientist, wanted to study medicine while growing up in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, and that desire persisted as she worked toward her B.A. in chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. After finishing her degree, however, Kwolek took a temporary research position with DuPont, where her work turned out to be so interesting that she decided to stay on.
One of the first women research chemists, she first gained national recognition in 1960 for her work with long molecule chains at low temperatures. In 1971, Kwolek's further analysis culminated in an important discovery of a liquid crystalline polymer solution. Its exceptional strength and stiffness led to the invention of Kevlar®, a synthetic material that is five times as strong as steel.
Kevlar is resistant to wear, corrosion and flames, and it is the main ingredient in the production of bulletproof vests, which have become invaluable to legions of soldiers and law enforcement officers. Furthermore, Kevlar is used in dozens of other products, including skis, safety helmets, hiking and camping gear, and suspension bridge cables.
Kwolek's research efforts have resulted in her being the recipient or co-recipient of 17 U.S. patents. This noted woman inventor also has received such prestigious accolades as the Kilby Award, the National Medal of Technology and the 1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award.
For her discovery of Kevlar, Kwolek was awarded the DuPont company's Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement in 1995, as a "Persistent experimentalist and role model whose discovery of liquid crystalline polyamides led to Kevlar aramid fibers."At the time of her death in 2014, she was still the only female employee to receive that honor.
In 1980, Kwolek received the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists, and an Award for Creative Invention from the American Chemical Society.In 1995,Kwolek became the fourth woman to be added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.In 1996, she received the National Medal of Technology and the IRI Achievement Award. In 1997, she received the Perkin Medal from the American Chemical Society.In 2003, she was added to the National Women's Hall of Fame.
She has been awarded honorary degrees by Carnegie Mellon University (2001),Worcester Polytechnic Institute (1981) and Clarkson University (1997).
Royal Society of Chemistry - Stephanie L Kwolek Award (2014)
The Royal Society of Chemistry grants a biennial 'Stephanie L Kwolek Award', "to recognise exceptional contributions to the area of materials chemistry from a scientist working outside the UK".