can become an inventor as long as they keep an open and inquiring mind
and never overlook the possible significance of an accident or apparent
failure." Patsy Sherman
was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1930. After college graduation,
she joined 3M as a research chemist and was assigned to work on fluorochemical
polymers. Patsy Sherman was one of very few women chemists to work for
a major corporation when she was hired by 3M in 1952. Her work was
an essential part of the introduction of 3M’s first stain repellent and
soil release textile treatments which have grown into an entire family
of products known as Scotchgard ® protectors.
regards the serendipitous discovery of Scotchgard as one of her most significant
works because many experts had written that such a product was "thermodynamically
impossible." Patsy Sherman said, "We were trying to develop a new kind
of rubber for jet aircraft fuel lines, when one of the lab assistants accidentally
dropped a glass bottle that contained a batch of synthetic latex I had
made. Some of the latex mixture splashed on the assistant's canvas tennis
shoes and the result was remarkable."
That day in
the lab is legendary. Patsy Sherman and her colleague, Sam Smith, were
working on another project when they observed that the accidental spill
on a white tennis shoe would not wash off nor would solvent remove it.
The area resisted soiling. They recognized the commercial potential of
its application to fabrics during manufacture and by the consumer at home.
So go ahead and put your feet up… the dirt will wash off.
was first sold in 1956, however, Patsy Sherman and Samuel Smith obtained
U.S. patent #3,574,791 in 1973, for the method for treating carpets, now
known as Scotchgard. The name Scotchgard is a combination of the
words Scotch and a misspelling of the word guard.
was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame in 1983. Patsy Sherman
and Sam Smith jointly hold 13 patents in fluorochemical polymers and polymerization
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