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His father taught at the Capital City Commercial College in Des Moines, Iowa, and young Carothers spent a year there.In 1915 he enrolled at Tarkio College, a small Presbyterian-supported school in northwestern Missouri.In addition to the many experimental studies, Carothers believed that mathematics could be applied to understand the formation and properties of polymers. Flory was hired in 1934 and introduced to polymers by Carothers.The seminal ideas they advanced provided the foundation of many of the theoretical methods for studying polymers used to this day.Commemorative Booklet—The First Nylon Plant (PDF) Commemorative Booklet—The Establishment of Modern Polymer Science By Wallace H.Carothers (PDF) The establishment of modern polymer science by Wallace Carothers and the first nylon plant, built by Du Pont, at Seaford, are two deeply interwoven National Historic Chemical Landmarks.In the early 1920s, the German organic chemist (and 1953 Nobel laureate) postulated that polymers consisted of units linked together by the same covalent bonds found in smaller organic molecules.Throughout the 1920s, Staudinger supported his view with new experimental evidence, and other chemists, among them Karl Freudenberg, Michael Polanyi, Kurt Meyer, and , came up with additional evidence backing Staudinger.
When the chemist who ran the college's one-man science department departed in 1918, Carothers, then a senior, took over the college's chemistry classes.Carothers” commemorative booklet produced by the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program of the American Chemical Society in 2000 (PDF). Other polymers had been synthesized in the laboratory from smaller molecules like styrene, vinyl chloride, and acrylic acid.At least one synthetic polymer, , a hard resin produced from phenol and formaldehyde by Leo H. Chemists knew, too, that polymers were molecules of high molecular weight (for example 40,000 or more) made up of huge numbers of smaller chemical units.Flory's accomplishments were recognized with the 1974 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Stine, director of Du Pont’s chemical department in Wilmington, Delaware, convinced the company's executive committee to establish a continuing program in fundamental research.