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Chains of Opportunity: The University of Akron and the Emergence of the Polymer Age, 1909-2007
By Mark D. Bowles
Published 2008


The ability to create and manipulate natural and synthetic polymers has resulted in a revolutionary transformation of our material culture. One hundred years ago, the artifacts of everyday life were made of wood, stone, glass, or metal. Today, polymers now often replace these substances and enhance the quality of the products made with them. The mastery of polymers has become one of the most significant scientific and engineering achievements of the past century. We are living in the midst of a Polymer Age, and few of us realize it, or know what it means.

Chains of Opportunity examines the story within the framework of one academic institution that has played the longest, and arguably the most influential, role in creating and shaping the Polymer Age—the University of Akron. An examination of the near century in between the foundation of Akron’s (and the world’s) first rubber chemistry course and the flourishing of its polymer college today, demonstrates how long polymer chains became chains of opportunity for an academic discipline, an economic region, and a university.

    Review: "My understanding of what it means to engage an accomplished and thoroughly professional science historian, rather then the nearest person at hand willing to undertake the task, is now complete. I would recommend Bowles to any person or organization that wants and accurate and lively record of people, places and events that shaped an institution or an entire industry."
    --Frank N. Kelley, Professor and Dean Emeritus, The University of Akron, College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering.