Wallace Hume Carothers letters to Frances Gelvin Spencer1929-1933
Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937) was a chemist and inventor of Neoprene artificial rubber and Nylon synthetic fiber. He worked as a chemist in E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company's Fundamental Research Program from 1928 until his death in 1937. This collection consists of photocopies of fourteen letters written by Carothers to his former college girlfriend from Missouri, Frances Gelvin Spencer, between 1929 and 1933. The nature of the letters is almost entirely personal.
- Carothers, Wallace Hume, 1896-1937 (Correspondent, Person)
- Spencer, Frances G. (Frances Gelvin), 1898-1992 (Recipient, Person)
1 folder in carton.
Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937) was a chemist and inventor of Neoprene artificial rubber and Nylon synthetic fiber. He worked as a chemist in E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company's Fundamental Research Program from 1928 until his death in 1937. Carothers was educated in the public schools of Des Moines, Iowa; he received his bachelor's degree at Tarkio College in Missouri and a doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Illinois. In 1926, he was appointed instructor of organic chemistry at Harvard University. Two years later, Carothers was selected to head the research unit in organic chemistry at the DuPont Company.
At DuPont, Carothers' work focused on polymerization and the ways in which polymers structurally analogous to cellulose and silk could be prepared. In early 1930, the chemists in Carothers' laboratory produced neoprene (synthetic rubber) and the first laboratory-synthesized fiber. In 1934, still working on polymerization theory, Carothers produced the first polyamide fiber which was later to become known as Nylon. During the next two years, Carothers suffered frequent bouts of depression. On April 29, 1937, three weeks after the basic Nylon patent application was filed, he committed suicide.
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of photocopies of fourteen letters written by Carothers to his former college girlfriend from Missouri, Frances Gelvin Spencer. The letters were copied from the originals in the possession of Spencer before her death. They are almost entirely personal in nature, but one describes his work in the following terms, "We have been enormously lucky in our research so far. We have not only a synthetic rubber, but something theoretically more original -- a synthetic silk. If these two things can be nailed down, that will be enough for one lifetime."
Existence and Location of Originals
Originals privately held or no longer extant.
This collection is open for research.
Language of Materials
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Wallace Hume Carothers letters to Frances Gelvin Spencer
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- 2020: Laurie Sather