Photo of Carl S. Marvel

Carl S. Marvel

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For leading us into the Polymer Age through his researches on polymers, including synthetic rubber; for helping us into the Space Age through his development of thermally stable polymers; for his many services to the chemical profession; and for educating and inspiring three generations of chemists.

Carl S. Marvel is considered a founder in the field of polymer science. Through chemistry, Marvel was able to imitate natural polymers found in everyday objects using synthetic materials, like plastics.

Marvel paved the way for plastics technology in the U.S. by developing polymer chemistry. One of his most famous achievements was developing a material could withstand heat at more 1,600 degrees. It was called polybenzimidazoles and could be used in space rockets.

He was also a prolific professor, teaching at University of Illinois for 41 years and another 26 years at the University of Arizona. He helped guide a number of groundbreaking polymer scientists that would follow in his footsteps.

As a student himself, he earned the nickname “Speed.” Despite a heavy freshmen schedule, with late nights working in the lab, he always made it to the breakfast before the dining hall doors closed at 7:30 in the morning.

By Christine Ayala