Arnold F. Willat, 102; Cold Hair Wave Developer

Associated Press

Arnold F. Willat, who developed the first cold permanent wave equipment, is dead at 102.

The Detroit-born electrical engineer, who died Monday, boasted in 1952 that he would pay $1,000 to the first woman whose hair he could not curl. A newspaper story at the time said no one collected.

At the age of 95, he was named to the Cosmetology Hall of Fame.

Willat manufactured and sold his own solutions and equipment for permanent waves for 50 years. Only last year, his Willat Co. of San Francisco discontinued manufacture of the cold wave solutions. Willat curl papers and dispensers are still found in beauty shops.

One of the nation’s early electrical engineers, with a degree from Georgia Tech in 1907, Willat traveled the East Coast after graduation and then moved to San Francisco with his wife in 1913.


At a manufacturer’s request, Willat developed an electricly operated hot permanent wave machine for beauty shops, but he eventually found a better way to curl hair.

Willat’s son, Forest, said his father gave up rights to several patents in the 1960s after winning large settlements from major manufacturers. The younger Willat said scores of companies soon were making and selling cold wave kits.

A private service will be held for the family.