Dr. Giuliana Tesoro wore many hats during her career including organic chemist, inventor, polymer chemist and professor.
Born in Italy to a Jewish family she was denied a post high school education due to racial laws passed by the Fascist Party in 1938. Moving to the United States two years later she was accepted into Yale University and earned her doctorate in organic chemistry in 1943.
Starting in 1944 she worked at Onyx Oil and Chemical Company starting as a research chemist and working her way to assistant director of research and then associate director in 1957. She worked in other industry settings in senior chemical research positions until 1972 when she accepted a job as a visiting professor at MIT, teaching there for four years and then remaining as an adjunct professor and senior researcher at the school for six more years. Hired next as a research professor at Polytechnic Institute of New York University she worked there until her retirement in 1996.
Tesoro’s work focused on using organic chemistry to improve modern textiles as well as creating ways to improve the efficiency of new manufacturing projects. For synthetic fibers she designed ways to prevent static accumulation and created improved permanent press properties’ for various textiles. But some of her most important work was in the development of flame-resistant fibers. As the use of organic polymers in fabrics became wide-spread in the late 1970s it became obvious that finding a way to make these fibers burn less easily was paramount. Tesoro worked with both creating and testing coatings applied after the manufacture of a product and creating new textiles with inherent flame-retardant properties.
Not content with only coming up with ideas, she was also known for continuing to develop these innovations. During her career she was granted 125 patents in the United States making her one of the most patented women at the time. For her work she was awarded the Olney Medal of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and an Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers.
Written by Angela Goad