Roy J. Plunkett; DuPont Co. Chemist Discovered Teflon

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>

Roy J. Plunkett, a DuPont Co. chemist who discovered Teflon, which became a wide-ranging part of American life from frying pans to artificial blood vessels, has died.

A DuPont Co. spokesman said Friday from company headquarters that Plunkett had died Thursday at his home in Corpus Christi, Tex.

The DuPont spokesman said Plunkett was 83 and died after a brief illness.


Plunkett was working as a research chemist for DuPont in 1938 when he discovered the material.

Plunkett, a native of New Carlisle, Ohio, was investigating the results of a failed experiment involving refrigeration gases at a DuPont laboratory in Deepwater, N.J.

The white, waxy substance, formally called polytetrafluoroethane, reacted with virtually no other chemical and proved to be one of the most slippery substances known.

The non-stick nature of Teflon also earned a place in popular language.

Ronald Reagan was known in his presidency as “the Teflon President” for his ability to evade criticism, and Mafia boss John Gotti was dubbed “the Teflon don” for escaping the law numerous times before he was finally convicted.

Plunkett received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Manchester College, and a master’s degree and doctorate from Ohio State University.

In addition to Teflon, Plunkett was inventor or co-inventor of a dozen other DuPont products patented in the United States, DuPont said. He retired as production manager for DuPont’s organic chemicals department in 1975, after a 39-year career.