1930 Julian Hill

Julian Hill (1904-1996) discovered a breakthrough cold-drawing technique to produce the 3-16 polyester super-silk fiber, the forerunner of nylon. Raised in Warrenton, Mo., Hill studied chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, then earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1928.Show more

Immediately after his graduation from MIT he accepted a position with DuPont at the company's Experimental Station laboratories and began working with Wallace Carothers on the problem of synthesizing superpolymers, or complex organic compounds with molecular weights greater than 5,000.


During an experiment conducted in April 1930, Hill used a special molecular still to synthesize a 12,000-weight polyester substance for the first time, shattering the old ceiling. He also found, quite unexpectedly, that the molten material, after cooling, could be stretched or cold drawn into a thin yet extremely strong and flexible fiber similar to silk. This discovery was tempered by the new fiber's low melting point, which made it unsuitable for use in commercial textiles. Hill's work, however, enabled Carothers to cold draw a more commercially successful polymer, nylon, four years later. Hill left Carothers' research group just before the advent of nylon to work with rayon and other organic compounds such as synthetic musks. He became Assistant Director of the Chemical Department and sat on its steering committee from 1932 until 1951. From then until 1964, Hill traveled the country as Chair of DuPont's Committee on Educational Aid to foster academic research in the sciences and to recruit young chemists for the company's laboratories. He retired from the company in 1964, and died in 1996 at the age of 91.