- THE MAGAZINE
AKRON, Ohio -- This month, two 3M chemists credited with the development of Scotchgard nearly 50 years ago are getting their scientific due when the National Inventors Hall of Fame inducts them into the organization.
Patsy Sherman and Sam Smith will join the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, an organization dedicated to commemorating the spirit of invention, on Sept. 15. With this distinction, Scotchgard protection will be ranked among a host of remarkable, world- changing inventions, including Velcro, the laser, AM radio, diabetes testing, the elevator and the telephone.
Scotchgard is a trademark of the 3M company (www.3M.com), St. Paul, Minn.
The pair will join the ranks of Alexander Graham Bell, The Wright Brothers and Walt Disney, who are among the 158 influential figures inducted to date.
With their breakthrough, Sherman and Smith developed the first form of soil protection for household materials used worldwide for apparel, carpet, upholstery and other domestic fabrics.
According to officials at the Hall of Fame, "Scotchgard treatments are so common in carpeting, upholstery and clothing that most of us don't remember a time when spilling a glass of red wine left a stain that couldn't be removed." Scotchgard is one of the most recognized brands, with researching showing 97 percent of American consumers know the name. Additionally, 90 percent of carpet made in the United States now has some built-in protective treatment, pioneered by Sherman and Smith.
Scotchgard, considered the first line of protection against spills, itself was the result of a spill. In1953, Sherman was a young research chemist developing a solid fluorochemical polymer to be used as rubber hosing for jet aircraft fuel. A lab assistant accidentally spilled a few drops of the solution on her tennis shoes. She tried removing it with soap and water, alcohol, and other solvents, but nothing worked.
Sherman, who had prepared the sample, began experimenting with the solution as a rain repellant. If it was impervious to solvents, it also might protect textiles from stains. Both were revolutionary concepts at the time.
Through the collaboration of Sherman and Smith, one of the most remarkable household wonders arose and one of the best-known products by 3M. Scotchgard protection is the first product from 3M to be honored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The recognition will earn the two scientists a permanent exhibit in the organization's museum in Akron, Ohio.