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Short Stories of Science and Invention

A Collection of Radio Talks by
Charles F. Kettering


52.   From Cocoon to Test Tube

   Various groups eagerly tried to find how it was done but when they failed they turned to substitutes. The Egyptians experimented with many materials even to spinning thread from the spider's web and this was tried again as late as 1750 when a Frenchman organized the Spider Silk Works and turned out gloves and stockings. But real silk culture, however, in France, began about the time Columbus discovered America when they successfully duplicated the Chinese product.

     Things, however, did not always go well with the French. In 1860 a mysterious parasite threatened to ruin the industry which was centered at Lyon. In desperation the growers called on the great French scientist, Louis Pasteur, to help them. Pasteur had a very able research assistant, de Chardonnet who, as a result of his work on this project, gained a first hand knowledge of silk which was to prove of great value to him later.

Spill     Chardonnet was also extremely interested in photography and, one day, when coating some photographic plates, he accidently spilled a bottle of collodion. He left the sticky mess but came back later when it was partially dry and tried to clean it up. In doing this, he pulled out some long filaments of the material which closely resembled silk. Chardonnet knew that a silk substitute would have a great value, so starting with collodion, he began a long series of experiments until he at last developed an artificial silk fiber from which he produced fabrics. These materials were exhibited at the Paris Exposition in 1889.


- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

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