Sample of the first succesful experimental nylon (polyamide), 1935.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Made by the research laboratories of E I du Pont de Nemours and Company, Wilmington, Delaware, this proved that it was posible to obtain a wearable fabric from a completely synthetic material. Nylon is a polyamide first developed by Wallace Hume Carothers (1896-1937) in the United States during the 1930s. It has a protein-like structure, and is made by condensation between an amino group of one molecule and a carboxylic acid group of another. When nylon is heated and extruded through tiny holes under presure, this forms many thin fibres which are quickly pulled away so that they cool and stretch. Nylon was found to give filaments with far greater strength and resistance to heat and water than any previous man-made fibre.