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Du Pont Co. introduced nylon in 1938 aimed at the women's hosiery market, where silk had been the material of choice. The first "nylons" hit the mercantiles in May 1940.

Nylon joined a long list of products dedicated for military purposes when the U.S. entered the war. A nylon 25% stronger was developed in 1942. The material was used in parachutes, airplane tire cords and glider tow ropes.

After the war, Du Pont returned to women's hosiery as nylon took a prominent position in the consumer marketplace. Other uses for nylon included toothbrushes and zippers. There was much pent-up demand for the product; women waited for hours to buy nylons.

Du Pont today is a supplier of nylon for mills that make it into hosiery and carpeting.


Teflon got off to a slow start after its discovery by a Du Pont scientist in 1938. It was difficult to process and applications were few. But improvements in the manufacturing process and the war broadened the material's use.

When the government needed a corrosion-resistant material for the production of uranium-235, it turned to Teflon. Additional problems with production of Teflon kept it from widespread consumer application until the mid-1950s.

Teflon is best known to consumers as a non-stick coating on cookware though it has other uses such as bearings and gaskets.


Styrofoam, manufactured by Dow Chemical Co., is the trade name of a line of extruded polystyrene products. Though Dow didn't invent polystyrene foam, it experimented extensively with the product and bought the patents from two Swedes, Carl Munthers and John G. Pandberg.

By 1944, Styrofoam was first sold to the U.S. military as flotation devices. Styrofoam was used commercially largely as a floral or craft decoration component until 1948, when it became an insulation element in a Detroit cold storage warehouse.

Its usefulness widened in the '50s, when Styrofoam became available in boards through improvements in manufacturing.


Jeep is the trade name of the rugged vehicle developed to replace the motorcycle and sidecar. A number of companies, including Ford Motor Co., American Bantam Car Co. and Willys-Overland Co., took part in its evolution.

During World War II, more than 600,000 jeeps were produced for the military. They served as ambulances, personnel carriers, tow trucks, weapons platforms and staff cars.

The etymology of the jeep name is unclear. The Ford edition of the vehicle was called GP, for "general purpose," and the name jeep may be an outgrowth of that. The name may also come from a character in the "Popeye" cartoon strip that could do almost anything.

Today, versions of these original rugged vehicles continue to be manufactured for military purposes and are very popular in the consumer marketplace as well. Chrysler Corp. is now the sole producer.


Plexiglas is a trade name of an acrylic plastic sheet and molding resin developed by the Rohm & Haas Co. Introduced in 1936, plexiglass didn't become popular until its use expanded in the war. "Bubbles" of plexiglass replaced open cockpits; it was also made into 360-degree gunner turrets, radar domes and bombardier enclosures.

The material had many advantages for postwar use. It was stronger and lighter than ordinary glass, could be colored or clear, would withstand all types of weather, and didn't rust or fade.


Though radar (an acronym for radio detecting and ranging) systems were in place at the start of World War II, significant improvements were made during the war years.

German radar before the war was superior to that of the Allies, but during the war Germany diverted resources to rocketry. Continual improvements in radar technology played a major role in the Allied victory.

Today, radar systems continue to play a significant role in air and water navigation allowing for high volume travel for business and leisure purposes. Radar also helps detect storms at sea, in the air and on land. The land systems help to warn of approaching tornadoes and other threatening weather.


Though penicillin was discovered in 1928 by British scientist Alexander Fleming, it wasn't until the outbreak of World War II that antibiotics took on a new meaning. Not only did they help prevent or fight off infection, they also aided in the advancement of surgery. The use of this "wonder drug" for battlefield wound treatment decreased the need for amputation.

Techniques for growing and extracting penicillin and other microbes were improved in the late 1930s and early '40s. Large-scale production began in 1943 due in part to the discovery of a high-yielding Penicillium mold.

In 1943, Selman A. Waksman, an American bacteriologist, discovered a type of fungus effective against tuberculosis.

Competition among pharmaceutical companies aided in the discovery and development of new antibiotics. Within a decade after the war, semisynthetic penicillins were also in the marketplace. Since the 1940s, antibiotics have helped save thousands of lives.


In 1943, Dow Corning, a joint effort between Corning Glass Works and Dow Chemical Co., manufactured organosilicon products to meet military needs. Though the material was developed in the '30s, improvements were made that allowed for military application. By 1945, a silicone rubber that could withstand temperatures higher than organic rubber was developed.

After the war, General Electric Co., Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Co. and the Linde Air Products Co., a division of Union Carbide & Carbon Corp., opened silicone production plants.

Among its many consumer applications, silicones are used in polishes, sealants, cosmetics and high-temperature coatings.M

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