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Inventor Spotlight: Wrinkle-Free Cotton Inventor Ruth Benerito

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For National Inventors Month this May, we’re celebrating innovation and highlighting some of the country’s finest innovators by telling you more about some who have been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Ruth Benerito – Wrinkle-Free Cotton

Cotton bales by Eran Finkle on Flickr

Cotton bales by Eran Finkle on Flickr

Frequent travelers, busy parents, and everyone who just hates to iron (myself included) owe a huge debt of gratitude to New Orleans native Ruth Benerito, who is credited for developing wrinkle-free cotton while working for the United States Department of Agriculture in the 1950s.

Benerito, born in 1916, is a scientist who discovered a way to treat the cellulose fibers of cotton that prevents creases from forming. According to the Chemical Heritage Foundation, “[o]nce Benerito worked out her method of attaching organic chemicals to cotton fibers, this allowed all sorts of valuable properties to be added to the fibers, such as stain- and flame-resistance.”

Benerito holds 55 patents and her strides in the development of wrinkle-free, wash and wear cotton are said to have “saved the cotton industry.” During the Korean War, she also developed a new method for feeding patients intravenously, which was used to treat soldiers in serious condition.

Benerito was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2008 and is a graduate of Tulane University (B.S. Chemistry, M.S.) and the University of Chicago (Ph.D.); she is also a past recipient of the Garvan Medal from the American Chemical Society and the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thank you, Ms. Benerito, for each and every time we didn’t have to iron our clothes!

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