Kevlar inventor Stephanie Kwolek dies

This undated photo made available by DuPont shows chemist Stephanie Kwolek at the DuPont Labs in Delaware. Kwolek invented a liquid crystalline solution that could be spun into the fabric now known as Kevlar

The inventor of Kevlar, the lightweight fibre used in bulletproof vests and body armour, has died aged 90.

Stephanie Kwolek was a chemist at the DuPont company in Wilmington, Delaware, when she invented the stronger-than-steel fibre in 1965.

It was initially intended to be used in automobile tyres.

In a statement, DuPont chief executive Ellen Kullman described Kwolek as "a creative and determined chemist and a true pioneer for women in science".

Stephanie Kwolek  wears regular house gloves made with the Kevlar she invented in Brandywine Hundred, Delaware, 20 June 2007 The Kevlar fibre is used by millions of people around the world, like these regular house gloves
US military Kevlar helmets Since its invention, the material has saved thousands of lives
A policeman demonstrate a Kevlar net shot from a shotgun-device to subdue suspects It has been useful in many forms for law-enforcement agencies - here, as a net for subduing suspects

Kwolek is the only female employee of DuPont to be awarded the company's Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement.

"I knew that I had made a discovery," Kwolek said in an interview several years ago. "I didn't shout 'Eureka,' but I was very excited, as was the whole laboratory excited, and management was excited because we were looking for something new, something different, and this was it."

She retired from the company in 1986.

Since the invention of Kevlar, the material has saved thousands of lives, including that of Police Lt David Spicer, who while recovering from his wounds in 2001, spoke to Kwolek on the phone.

"She was a tremendous woman," Lt Spicer told the Associated Press news agency.

Aside from protective clothing, the fibre is found in a variety of products, including aeroplanes, mobile phones, and sailboats.

More on This Story

More US & Canada stories


Features & Analysis

  • A very clever little girlBrain gain

    Why are people getting better at intelligence tests?

  • Don Roberto Placa Quiet Don

    The world's worst interview - with one of the loneliest men on Earth

  • Welsh society plaqueDistant valley

    How St David's Day is marked in one community far from Wales

  • A reveller attends celebrations to mark the 450th anniversary of the city of Rio de Janeiro - 1 March 2015Partying in the streets

    Rio de Janeiro marks 450 years since it was founded

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • KnucklesGood or bad?

    For many it can be very satisfying to 'crack' the bones in your hand, but is it bad for you?


  • BatteriesClick Watch

    More power to your phone - the lithium-ion batteries that could last twice as long

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.