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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... nylon.


CURWOOD: Sixty-six years ago, Julian Hill, a research scientist for DuPont, discovered a formula that has truly changed the world: nylon. Today we take plastic fiber for granted. It's in everything from clothing to suitcases to cars. So it's easy to forget that nylon was the first completely synthetic fiber. DuPont unveiled nylon to the public at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. The company hyped it as "strong as steel, as fine as the spider's web," and the perfect replacement for the costly silk used in women's stockings. Sixty-four million pairs of nylon stockings were sold their first year on the market, and today the average American woman buys 15 pairs of nylon hose every year. As for Julian Hill, he seemed less than thrilled with the synthetic boom he helped spark. He died last year at the age of 91. In 1988 he told an interviewer, "Mankind will perish by being smothered in plastic." And for this week that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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