Stephanie Kwolek, the chemist who invented Kevlar, was born on this day in 1923.
Kwolek, whose invention has saved thousands of lives, was the daughter of two Polish immigrants. From her father, an amateur naturalist, she learned her love of science on their long walks through the woods together, identifying plants and wildlife. He died when Kwolek was just ten years old. From her mother, a seamstress, Kwolek learned her love of textiles and fiber arts. At a young age, Kwolek considered a career in fashion, but her mother warned that she was too much of a perfectionist to be a designer. Instead, Kwolek chose chemistry, a field for perfectionists if there ever was one.
It seems perfectly logical that she that would end up as a textile chemist, but that wasn't Kwolek's original plan. After receiving her bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1946, Kwopek was looking for a temporary job to help her raise the money for medical school. But in the lab, Kwopek became fascinated by polymer chemistry and decided to stay.