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Ruth Benerito

Page history last edited by Dennis Tran 10 years, 1 month ago

Ruth Rogan Benerito

          Dennis Tran

   Ruth Rogan Benerito was born on January 12. 1916 and died on October 5, 2013. She and her team invented wrinkle-free clothing.

Biography

     Ruth Rogan Benerito is most famous in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field, for re-defining how cotton clothing should be made. She also has 55 patents throughout her lifetime. Ruth Benerito was born on January 12, 1916 and died in October 5, 2013. She was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her father was a civil engineer and her mother was a feminist activist. She was born third of six children. She married Frank Benerito (now deceased) in 1950. Ruth Benerito was at the forefront of the development of wash-and–wear cotton.

 Benerito was very bright for her age; she completed high school at the young age of 14. Shortly afterwards, she went to H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College (a women’s school at Tulane University) when she was 15. In 1935, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She later earned a master’s degree in physics from Tulane University in 1938. At times she would teach at institutions such as Randolph-Macon Women’s College, Sophie Newcomb College, and Tulane University. All while she was attending school for her doctorate. In 1948, she received a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago. She graduated near the end of the Great Depression so jobs were still scarce. Benerito later goes on and lands a job at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

     Ruth Benerito worked for the USDA’s Southern Regional Research Center from 1953 till she retired in1986. Ruth continued to teach part-time and was a chemistry instructor at the University of New Orleans. She retired when she was 81 years old due to old age. Her home in New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and spent the rest of her life in Metairie, Louisiana.

Contributions to STEM

     While cotton was losing in a competition between other fabrics like nylon and polyester, Ruth and her colleagues trying to find a way to give rebirth to the cotton industry. Fabrics like nylon and polyester were coming into popularity because they could’ve been air-dried and then worn without having to iron the shirt. Benerito and her team worked for Southern Research Center and were in charge with solving problems in the wood and textile industries. She and her team came up with a chemical treatment that “cross-linked” or reinforced the bonds of cellulose molecules in cotton fibers. Doing so, caused cotton to less likely to wrinkle. “It’s sort of like when a woman gets her hair in a permanent wave,” Benerito said. “You have to take these long chains and cross-link them, connecting the two chains in a specific arrangement.”

Interesting Facts

  • In 1969 the Team recieved a patent for creating a "method for producing resilient cotton fabric through partial esterfication." Over the years, refinements were made and brought permanent creases and stain-and-resistant clothing.

  •  In 1971, Ladies' Home Journal labeled her as one of the most significant women in the United States. Benerito received the prestigious Lemelson- Massachusetts Institute of  Technology lifetime acheivement award for her work in textiles and her commitment in education in 2002.

  • In 2008, she was inducted into the National Inventers Hall of Fame.      

  • Merton Flemings, director of the Lemelson- MIT program, humorously said, “It’s safe to say that Ruth Benerito has made us more comfortable in our clothes over the years.”

Impact on 21st Century Society and Culture

     Ruth Rogan Benerito brought back a clothing material that was starting to die out due to competition. She is mostly credited for creating wash-and-wear clothing. This is otherwise best known as cotton-clothing that is wrinkle-free. Most of, if not all, cotton based clothing will advertise that it is wrinkle-free. This is all thanks to Benerito and her team. Though she is the one responsible for bringing cotton back, she is still under credited because of the fact that she was a female.

Work Cited

Langer, Emily. Ruth Benerito: Chemist who helped create wrinkle-free cotton. The Washington Post, 18 Oct 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2014

Ruiz, Veronica. Ruth Mary Rogan Benerito. CSUpomona. Web. 20 Feb 2014

Ruth Benerito. Chemical Heritage Foundation. Web. 20 Feb 2014

Ruth Benerito. The Telegraph, 08 Oct 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2014

 

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