An extraordinary but brief career
While at DuPont, Carothers enjoyed varied interests beyond his research, including art, music, poetry, politics, and
sports, and he made many friends in Wilmington. In 1936, he married Helen Sweetman, a chemist in the patent department
at DuPont. The same year he became the first industrial organic chemist elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
Toward the end of his career, Carothers was subject to increasing periods of depression and, in April 1937, he took
his own life.
Carothers confirmed the basic structure of polymers, demonstrating that they were ordinary molecules, only longer.
His synthesis of polymers led to the development of nylon, the world's first fully synthetic fiber, and neoprene, a highly
resistant synthetic rubber. His early work with polyesters supported the establishment of the polyester fibers industry.
These materials remain important articles of commerce to this day. Despite Carothers' relatively brief career, it was an
extraordinarily productive one, both in terms of fundamental advances in chemistry and nearly unparalleled commercial success.