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Patsy O'Connell Sherman

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Patsy Sherman (1930–2008)

Patsy O’Connell Sherman (September 15, 1930– February 11, 2008) was an American chemist and co-inventor of Scotchgard, a 3M brand of products, a stain repellent and durable water repellent.[1]

Early life[edit]

Patsy O'Connell Sherman was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She grew up in an era where women were not permitted to higher levels of education, but despite this, her father encouraged her to pursue it. Her father was also very passionate about science his entire life, and that encouraged her even more. During this time, men were overseas fighting in the World War while women were expected to pick up the slack, giving them freedom and independence, which she heavily used. She attended Minneapolis North High School, where she did the men's aptitude test as the woman just told her housewife, and she wasn't happy with that. Shadowing her father, she chose to pursue a career in finance and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College as a chemistry and math major - she was the first ever to do so. [1] 


At 3M[edit]

In 1952, Sherman started her career at 3M. With Samuel Smith, Sherman co-invented Scotchgard, which soon become one of the most famous and widely used stain repellent and soil removal products in North America. The invention of Scotchgard was sparked by an accident. Sherman and coworkers were initially assigned to develop a rubber that could be used for jet fuel hoses.[2] A sample of a fluorochemical rubber was accidentally spilled on an assistant's shoe. After exhaustive attempts to remove the rubber failed, Sherman realized that the material could be used as a repellant for oil, water, and other solvents. Sherman and Smith received a patent in 1971 for the "invention of block and graft copolymers containing water-solvatable polar groups and fluoroaliphatic groups."[3] Sherman holds 13 patents with Smith in fluorochemical polymers and polymerization processes.[4]

In 1974, Sherman was the first woman to be named to the Carlton Society, 3M's Hall of Fame ("for her surface energy research leading to the development of the 3M™ Scotchgard™ Fabric Protectant, and for her research in fluorochemical polymerization and synthesis of polymers").[5] Sherman remained at 3M for several years, improving and expanding the Scotchgard line of products.[6] She later became a laboratory manager and, in the mid-1980s, she developed the company's technical education department.[1]

In October 2002, along with notable speakers such as Steve Wozniak (the inventor of the Apple computer), Sherman spoke at the 200th anniversary celebration of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. She was one of 37 inventors who spoke on the process of invention. She said[7]

You can encourage and teach young people to observe, to ask questions when unexpected things happen. You can teach yourself not to ignore the unanticipated. Just think of all the great inventions that have come through serendipity, such as Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin, and just noticing something no one conceived of before.

Advocating for women in science[edit]

Sherman was an outspoken advocate for women in science. "Girls should follow their dreams," she said. "They can do anything anybody else can do. They have many more role models today -- not the least of whom might be their mothers."[1]

During development of the Scotchgard product in the 1950s, Sherman was required to wait for performance results outside of the textile mill during testing due to a rule at that time that banned women from the mill.[6] At that time, there were very few female chemists; Sherman was a rarity in the corporate environment.[8]


Personal life[edit]

Sherman retired from 3M in 1992, garnering further external recognition. Following a December 2007 stroke, she died February 11, 2008. Her husband Hubert Sherman had died in 1996, while her two surviving daughters were Sharon Loushin (also a 3M chemist) and Wendy Heil, who owned Advanced Optics, Inc.[1][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Patsy Sherman co-invented Scotchgard". StarTribune. February 13, 2008. Retrieved 2012-10-13. Patsy Sherman of Bloomington, a retired 3M chemist who co-invented Scotchgard when she was in her 20s, died Monday in Minneapolis. Sherman, who suffered a stroke in December, was 77. In 1953, Sherman and Samuel Smith focused on an accident in a 3M lab, after an experimental compound dripped on someone's canvas tennis shoes and couldn't be cleaned off.
  2. ^ "Patsy O. Sherman | The National Inventors Hall of Fame". www.invent.org. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  3. ^ US 3574791, Sherman, Patsy O. & Smith, Samuel, "Block and graft copolymers containing water-solvatable polar groups and fluoroaliphatic groups", published 1971-04-13, assigned to Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. 
  4. ^ "USPTO Kids". www.uspto.gov. Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2007-02-09.
  5. ^ a b "3M Carlton Society| 3M United States". www.3m.com. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  6. ^ a b "Mothers of Invention of the Month". July 2005. JAD Communications International. Retrieved 4 October 2010. [dead link]
  7. ^ Callahan, Renee Hopkins. "Invention: TheArt of Observation, Curiosity and Serendipity". November 12, 2002. Corante. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  8. ^ Da Vinci Institute Archived 2007-02-03 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Patsy O'Connell Sherman". www.msthalloffame.org.
  10. ^ National Inventors Hall of Fame Archived 2007-07-06 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "ASEE.org". asee.org.
  12. ^ Awards Archived 2006-09-05 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendyheil1/ [bare URL]

External links[edit]