Former Chemistry Instructor Inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

February 13, 2018

BUFFALO, NY – The National Inventors Hall of Fame will induct former Canisius University chemistry instructor Joseph C. Shivers Jr., PhD, posthumously, on May 3, 2018 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.  The black-tie gala hails the outstanding achievements of U.S. patent holders whose inventions have contributed significantly to the nation’s welfare and the advancement of science and the useful arts.  Shivers is being inducted for inventing LYCRA, considered one of the top clothing innovations of the 20th century.  LYCRA is a stretchy synthetic fiber known generically as spandex.

Shivers developed LYCRA while working, by day, as a researcher of polymers at the DuPont plant in Buffalo, NY and at night, as an instructor of chemistry at Canisius University.   Shivers joined DuPont in 1946, where his work included perfecting Orlon and then Dacron polyester, before looking for a synthetic elastomer to replace the heavy rubber threads then necessary for foundation garments.  After using an intermediate substance to modify Dacron, Shivers achieved a stretchy fiber that thickened, bounded, withstood high temperatures and could be spun into filaments.  Unlike rubber, Shivers’ fiber could stretch five times its original length while retaining its elasticity and recovering near to its original dimensions.  LYCRA was also lightweight, smooth and soft; stronger and more durable; and could withstand exposure to perspiration, lotions and detergents. 

DuPont sold its Invista synthetic fibers business, which included LYCRA, in 2004 to Koch Industries for $4.4 billion.  Today, LYRCA exists throughout the garment industry – from sportswear and undergarments to high fashion – and it has found applications in other areas including healthcare, home furnishings and the automotive industry.  Its steadily growing global market is estimated to exceed $5 billion by 2020. 

A native of Moorestown, NJ, Shivers received a BS, an MA and a PhD in organic chemistry from Duke University.  He worked for DuPont from 1946 up until his retirement in 1980 and taught at Canisius from approximately 1948 – 1950.  Shivers was the recipient of many awards and accolades.  He received DuPont’s Lavoisier Medal, awarded to scientists whose extraordinary achievements result in significant business impact and enduring scientific value.  The American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) also conferred upon Shivers the Olney Medal, presented for achievement in textile chemistry. 

Joseph C. Shivers died on September 1, 2014 at the age of 94. 

The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) is the premier nonprofit organization in America dedicated to recognizing inventors and invention, promoting creativity and advancing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.  Founded in 1973, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, NIHF is committed to not only honoring the individuals whose inventions have made the world a better place but to ensuring American ingenuity continues to thrive in the hands of coming generations.

One of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York.