The polymer that Stephanie Kwolek created--Kevlar®--was very light but stiff and strong beyond anyone’s imagination. Pound for pound, Kevlar is five times stronger than steel. And it’s chemical and flame resistant. Today Kevlar® is used in boat hulls, bullet-resistant vests, cut-resistant gloves, fiber-optic cables, firefighters’ and lumberjacks’ suits, helmets, tires, sporting equipment--anywhere that resistance to heat or cuts is a must.
Kwolek’s ability to recognize possibilities where others did not is a quality that she shares with many inventors. This ability 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 the 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 refusal to give up at the first sign of failure.