The Plastics Revolution: How Chemists Are Pushing Polymers to New Limits
Hermann Staudinger was a pacifist, but this was one fight he was determined to win. In 1920, the German chemist proposed that polymers – a broad class of compounds that included rubber and cellulose – were made of long chains of identical small molecules linked by strong chemical bonds1. Most of his colleagues thought this was arrant nonsense, and argued that polymers were merely looser aggregations of small molecules. Staudinger refused to back down, sparking feuds that spanned a decade. Eventually, laboratory data proved that he was right. He won the 1953 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work, and synthetic polymers are now ubiquitous.
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