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.
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.