Friday, June 20, 2014

Another Beautiful Save

"I don't think there is anything like saving someone's life to bring you satisfaction and happiness." Stephanie Kwolek.

Stephanie Kwolek was born in Pennsylvania, her parents having immigrated to the US from Poland. She began working for DuPont as a chemist, putting off medical school. She retired in 1986 having won numerous awards and obtaining a number of patents - Kevlar, among others.

Stephanie Kwolek at Spinning Elements by Harry Kalish.TIFThe number of police officers, military member and others who are alive today because of this amazing invention cannot be counted. Although "bulletproof" is a misnomer, the lightweight vests worn by cops, animal control officers, and code enforcement officers do their jobs almost daily. Helmets made of the stuff adorn the heads of millions of first responders and military members.

One of the first law enforcement officers I met was an Arapahoe County sheriff's deputy who was shot by a suspect wielding a shotgun. The buckshot pellet - roughly the size of a 32 caliber bullet, was stopped by his vest (not before putting a hole in his tie). One of the members of my department, when he was working for another agency, was saved by his vest during a gun battle. 

Ms. Kwolek apparently did not spend a lot of her time figuring out ways to use her invention - she was a research chemist, after all. That's okay. Others have taken it from there. In my locker, smelling vaguely of Fabreze, is a piece of equipment I wear every duty day. I hope it never lives up to its intended use but, if it does, I will also be able to live up to mine. I will have the daughter of Polish immigrants to thank.

Farewell, ma'am. Thank you.

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