Polyester Nemesis

If you love your cotton shirts, you may want to thank Ruth Mary Roan Benerito, a physical chemist born 83 years ago today. Her research has led to cotton fabrics that are highly absorbent, wrinkle and stain resistant, and flame retardant. While working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Benerito developed methods for keeping creases out of "drip-dry" cotton, allowing the cotton industry to compete with manufacturers of synthetic fabrics. She also studied reactions of molecules called epoxides, which led to a process for making a more absorbent and comfortable cotton fabric and had applications in the paper, film, and epoxy plastic industries.

Source: Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary, Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Eds. (Greenwood Press, 1997).