One of the most significant achievements in the development of body armor was the invention of DuPont’s Kevlar ballistic fabric. Invented by Polish-American female chemist Stephanie Kwolek while working for DuPont, Kevlar was accidently invented. Ironically, the fabric was originally intended to replace steel belting in vehicle tires. In 1964, her group began searching for a new lightweight strong fiber to use for light but strong tires. The polymers she had been working with at the time, poly-p-Phenylene-terephthalate and polybenzamide, formed liquid crystal while in solution, something unique to those polymers at the time. The solution was cloudy, opalescent upon being stirred, and of low viscosity and usually was thrown away. However, Kwolek persuaded the technician, Charles Smullen, who ran the “spinneret”, to test her solution, and was amazed to find that the fiber did not break, unlike nylon.
Her supervisor and her laboratory director understood the significance of her discovery and a new field of polymer chemistry quickly arose, giving birth to the incredibly strong fabric we all know today that stop bullets.