Oral history interviews on Wallace Carothers

About this collection

    This collection contains ten interviews conducted in July and August of 1978 with chemist Wallace Hume Carothers’s friends, family, and colleagues. Five of the interviews were recorded as well as transcribed, while others were only transcribed. The interviewees primarily share stories and focus on their feelings surrounding Carothers’s personality, work, and suicide. Helen Sweetman, Carothers’s wife, is also a common subject. Other topics include the DuPont Experimental Station, life in mid-twentieth century Wilmington, Delaware, and Carothers’s election to the National Academy of Sciences.
    Image: Portrait of Dr. Wallace H. Carothers, circa 1928. Click to view.

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Interview with John and Elizabeth Miles, July 1978 [audio]
John and Elizabeth "Lib" Miles discuss Wallace Carothers, primarily focusing on his marriage to Helen Sweetman (1911-2000). Both John and Lib express their disapproval of Ms. Sweetman and believe the marriage was a mistake, recounting several stories to support their opinions. They talk about Carothers's general personality, including his love of drinking, music, and cheese, his insecurities, and his focus, intelligence, and kindness. Carothers's work with DuPont and Nylon, his battle with depression, and his eventual suicide are also discussed.
Interview with Martin E. Cupery and Harry B. Dykstra, 2 August 1978 [audio] (part 1)
Martin E. Cupery and Harry B. Dykstra have a conversation with Cookie Strange. They primarily discuss their research with synthetic polymers, the discovery of Nylon, and "Purity Hall" at the DuPont Experimental Station. They also talk about Wallace Carothers's overall demeanor and how his gentleness and kindness made him easy to be around. Part 1.
Interview with Martin E. Cupery and Harry B. Dykstra, 2 August 1978 [audio] (part 2)
Martin E. Cupery and Harry B. Dykstra have a conversation with Cookie Strange. They primarily discuss their research with synthetic polymers, the discovery of Nylon, and "Purity Hall" at the DuPont Experimental Station. They also talk about Wallace Carothers's overall demeanor and how his gentleness and kindness made him easy to be around. Part 2.
Interview with William "Bill" Mapel, July 1978 [transcript]
Interviewer Adeline Bassett Cook Strange (also known as A.B.C Strange or Cookie) recounts her conversations with William "Bill" Mapel and his wife, Evelyn Raines Mapel. Strange says Mr. Mapel was hesitant to talk about Carothers, and she believes he thought he would be breaking Carothers's confidence. Mapel described Carothers as the closest friend he ever had, and despite Carothers's reserved demeanor, there was an "aura" around him at DuPont and in Wilmington society. Overall, Strange believes that much of Carothers's life was controlled by Mapel's "aggressive interests and kindness," and that Carothers was amenable to this because of his insecurities.
Interview with Gerard Bérchet, 1 August 1978 [transcript]
Gerard Bérchet talks about Wallace Carothers with Cookie Strange. He discusses life in Paris, meeting Carothers, and his trip across the Atlantic to the United States. He also mentions Nylon and its various versions, including 66 and 6, 10, as well as other research projects that he was involved with at DuPont's Experimental Station.
Interview with Elizabeth Carothers Kyle, 3 July 1978 [transcript]
Transcript of a telephone call between Elizabeth Carothers Kyle, younger sister to Wallace Carothers, and Cookie Strange. Mrs. Kyle talks about her childhood in Iowa, Wallace's general personality, his love of tennis and music, and his time at Tarkio College and the University of Illinois. She also discusses their sister, Isobel, and the close relationship Isobel shared with Wallace.
Interview with Julian and Polly Hill [transcript]
Cookie Strange documents a conversation she had with Julian Hill and his wife, Polly, about Wallace Carothers. The Hills remember Carothers as a lover of music. He had a Capehart, a large radio/photograph, and would play concerts for friends at his apartment. They also discuss his affection for his sister, Isobel, and his connection to Silvia Moore.
Interview with Helen Duncan [transcript]
Transcript of a conversation about Wallace Carothers between Helen Duncan and Cookie Strange. Duncan served as the Experimental Station Librarian, and she recalls Carothers's visits to the library, the chemists' interest in bird watching, and Helen Sweetman's affection for Carothers.