From Thursday, April 5th to Monday, April 9th, 1990, my wife, Roslyn, and I had the wonderful opportunity to host Dr. Roy and Lois Plunkett when they came to Akron, OH for the National Inventors Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the celebration of the opening of Inventure Place.
For those who do not know who Dr. Roy Plunkett is – Dr. Plunkett was a chemist at DuPont and in April, 1938, he discovered PTFE or polytetrafluoroethylene, the basis of Teflon! It was one of those discoveries that happen by accident. He was working on gases related to Freon refrigerants when he stumbled on PTFE. For his invention, Dr. Plunkett was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 1973 and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1985.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame was formed in 1973 and located in the basement of the patent office. In 1987, a call went out for a new location and Akron, as a result of its financial commitment and the number of patents generated by the rubber companies, was selected to be its new home. A building was built to house the Hall of Fame, Inventure Place, and in 1990 a Gala Event was held to celebrate this achievement and the induction of new members.
When a call went out for couples to host inventors and I saw Dr. Plunkett’s name on the list of attendees, I immediately volunteered Roz and me to be their host couple. On that Thursday, I picked up the Plunkett’s at the airport and instantly felt a special bond. With Roz, we went out for an informal dinner and Roz and I still reminisce about the discussion. After some small talk, Roz made the statement: “Dr. Plunkett, all I know about Teflon is that it’s a coating on frying pans”. Dr. Plunkett immediately answered “Dearie, we have the whole weekend for me to tell you about Teflon”. As he described the uses in heart valves and other body parts, he teared up when commenting on how many lives were saved as a result of his invention.
On Friday night there was the Gala for the Hall of Fame and what a party it was. The dinner was in the Goodyear Aerospace Building, commonly known as the “blimp factory”. To quote dimensions, the building is 1,175 feet long, 325 feet wide with a height of 211 feet. Attached to the ceiling of the building was an enormous cutout of Ben Franklin with his kite and on each table was a center piece made with several light bulbs. After cocktails, and to let us know that dinner was going to be served, there was a crack of thunder with lightening hitting Ben Franklin’s kite. The electricity travelled to each table lighting up each center piece.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, we toured the area and then in the afternoons, relaxed at our home while watching golf. When asked if he would like to join us with a glass of wine, his response was: “Hell no, I’d like a Martini!” On Monday, I brought our guests to Lancer Dispersions and we discussed the equipment needed to process Teflon. After lunch, we left for the airport and a magical weekend was now in the past. Roz and Lois corresponded for approximately two years after that weekend. We were saddened when we heard that four years later, 1994, Lois wrote that Dr. Plunkett had passed away.
It was a thrilling experience to meet, and host for a weekend, Dr. and Mrs. Plunkett a true “giant” in our Industry.
By: Steve Hershfield
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