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Recognize the Unusual

Learn from the Inventors

One day in 1965, as DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek was trying to dissolve a substance called a polymer, something strange happened. Instead of a clear molasses-like solution, this polymer was cloudy and poured like water. Intrigued with these unusual properties, Kwolek had to persuade her colleagues to keep testing the material despite the fact that it did not fit the expected pattern. The result was a strong yet lightweight fiber named Kevlar with a multiplicity of uses.

Kwolek’s ability to recognize possibilities where others did not is a quality she shares with many inventors. This tendency to see non-obvious connections and relationships often leads inventors to the key insight that is the basis for their invention. Sometimes it seems as if an inventor had a flash of inspiration or a “Eureka!” moment. But often these instances are examples of a lifetime habit, begun in childhood, of curiosity, exploration, and a refusal to give up at the first sign of failure. This section tells the stories of other inventions, like the microwave oven, Post-it™ Notes, and the implantable cardiac pacemaker, whose creators had the ability to recognize unexpected possibilities.

Stephanie Kwolek
Stephanie Kwolek 
Kevlar® Inventor


“Ordinarily a polymer solution sort of reminds you of molasses, although it may not be as thick. And it’s generally transparent. This polymer solution poured almost like water, and it was cloudy. I thought, ‘There’s something different about this. This may be very useful.’”

Other Inventors in "Recognize the Unusual":

Arthur Fry

Art Fry 
Post-It™ Note Inventor

Wilson Greatbatch

Cardiac Pacemaker Inventor

Patsy Sherman<

Scotchgard™ Inventor

Percy Spencer

Percy Spencer 
Microwave Inventor

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