Whinfield, John Rex

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b. 16 February 1901 Sutton, Surrey, England
d. 6 July 1955 Dorking, Surrey, England
[br]
English inventor ofTerylene.
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Whinfield was educated at Merchant Taylors' School and Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied chemistry. Before embarking on his career as a research chemist, he worked as an un-paid assistant to the chemist C.F. Cross, who had taken part in the discovery of rayon. Whinfield then joined the Calico Printers' Association. There his interest was aroused by the discovery of nylon by W.H. Carothers to seek other polymers which could be produced in fibre form, usable by the textile industries. With his colleague J.T. Dickson, he discovered in 1941 that a polymerized condensate of terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, polyethylene terephthgal-late, could be drawn into strong fibres. Whinfield and Dickson filed a patent application in the same year, but due to war conditions it was not published until 1946. The Ministry of Supply considered that the new material might have military applications and undertook further research and development. Its industrial and textile possibilities were evaluated by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in 1943 and "Terylene", as it came to be called, was soon recognized as being as important as nylon.
In 1946, Dupont acquired rights to work the Calico Printers' Association patent in the USA and began large-scale manufacture in 1954, marketing the product under the name "Dacron". Meanwhile ICI purchased world rights except for the USA and reached the large-scale manufacture stage in 1955. A new branch of the textile industry has grown up from Whinfield's discovery: he lived to see most people in the western world wearing something made of Terylene. It was one of the major inventions of the twentieth century, yet Whinfield, perhaps because he published little, received scant recognition, apart from the CBE in 1954.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
CBE 1954.
Further Reading
Obituary, 1966, The Times (7 July).
Obituary, 1967, Chemistry in Britain 3:26.
J.Jewkes, D.Sawers and R.Stillerman, 1969, The Sources of Invention, 2nd edn, London: Macmillan.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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