Nathaniel C. Wyeth - Hall of Fame Entry
Author: Plastics Academy Staff
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Nathaniel C. Wyeth
Inventor and co-inventor of 25 products and processes spanning a wide range of plastics, textile fibers, electronic, and mechanical systems. Credited with the original development of the biaxially oriented polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle widely used today for packaging carbonated beverages.
Wyeth's unique and unparalleled development not only set the direction and tone of rigid plastics containers for soft drinks, but revolutionized the beverage packaging industry in the process. U.S. commercial production of the PET bottle, which was negligible in 1977, exploded to 2.5 billion containers by 1980, completely sweeping aside the glass container in that size. By 1985, industry estimates placed the U.S. soft drink bottle at 5.5 billion units. It is predicted that the PET bottle will eventually become the standard container for wine, liquor, beer, and a wide variety of food and non-food products.
Wyeth's contributions are many and varied. During his career, he has been involved in the development of polymer processing equipment, synthetic textile fibers, plastic products, and other mechanical systems. His accomplishments include development of a precentered wire-coating die, a foamed plastic wire-coating system, a plastic crown for soft drink bottles, a process for bonding nonwoven polypropylene sheet, a plastic aerosol valve, a process for continuous production of oriented plastic tubing, and development of a process for manufacturing plastic parts to replace sheet metal in automotive applications.
Wyeth graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BS degree in mechanical engineering. He joined the engineering department of DuPont in 1936, and in 1963 was named DuPont's first Engineering Fellow. With the title went the privilege of selecting his area of research. In 1975, he was named Senior Engineering Fellow, the highest technical position at DuPont. He retired in 1976, and became a consultant with DuPont's College Relations Section.
Wyeth is a Fellow of the ASME and holds a membership in the Delaware and National Society of Professional Engineers. He is an honorary member of Pi Tau Sigma, mechanical engineering honor society. As a member of SPE, in 1981 he was honored for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering/Technology, and was the 1986 recipient of SPE's International Award.