Carl Shipp "Speed" Marvel - Hall of Fame Entry
Author: Plastics Academy Staff
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Carl Shipp "Speed" Marvel
A premier polymer chemist. Research in synthetics stretched from World War I-era octane development through World War II rubber substitutes, extending to a fire-resistant fibre worn as space suits by American astronauts.
Marvel was born on a farm in 1894 and attended a one-room country school near Waynesville, IL. He encountered the field of organic chemistry while at Illinois Wesleyan.
Professor Marvel earned the nickname "Speed" during his World War I graduate school days by working late in the laboratory, then sleeping late, yet still managing to get his breakfast before the house doors closed at 7:30 AM.
After obtaining his PhD in 1920, he took a teaching job at Illinois. In 1928, he began his consulting career with DuPont, a career that continued some 58 years. During his consulting career, such useful substances as olefins and vinyl polymers were developed. With the help of Marvel's students and his advice, DuPont produced nylon, neoprene, Mylar, and Orlon.
With the outbreak of World War II and the choking of the world rubber supply, Marvel was drafted by the National Defense Research Committee. In 1941, he joined the Rubber Reserve Corporation in the hunt for a rubber substitute. The project involved several universities: MIT, Chicago, Minnesota, Cornell, and Case, as well as contributions from industry. By 1955, his leading role in industry-university cooperation was well-established.
Heat-stable polymers attracted him after World War II, and much of his research was accomplished through the Materials Laboratory of Wright- Patterson Air Force Base. Celanese joined in the development of heat-stable polymers, and with their cooperation, a fiber was produced that resists heat and flame, making it suitable for astronauts working in the unique environment of space.
Marvel continued to teach and do research at Illinois until he retired in 1961. The work he pioneered on heat-stable polymers, resins, and films continues today. Beginning in 1925, Marvel produced 176 chemists with PhD's and trained 145 post-doctoral associates; his direction of their work and that of visiting scholars resulted in the publication of 502 papers and 55 patents.
"Marvel Hall" at the ACS headquarters in Washington, DC was the first enduring structure to bear his name; now the "Carl S. Marvel Laboratories of Chemistry" at the University of Arizona will stand as further immutable testimony to his brilliant career.
He received over 25 awards from industry, trade associations, and universities, including the National Medal of Science presented to him by President Reagan on March 12, 1986.