My watch list  

Patsy O’Connell Sherman


Patsy O’Connell Sherman (born September 15, 1930 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is an American chemist.



Sherman is a 1952 alumnus of Gustavus Adolphus College located in St. Peter, Minnesota.

She is the co-inventor along with Samuel Smith of Scotchgard while an employee of the 3M corporation in 1952. Sherman remained at 3M for several years improving on Scotchgard and developed other uses for the product.[1] Scotchgard would become, arguably, the most famous and widely used stain repellent and soil removal product in north America.

3M announced on May 16, 2000 that they would be removing Scotchgard from the market. The company stated “low levels of chemicals (PFOS and PFOA) present in humans and the environment did not pose a health risk.”[2] Global investigation of PFOS results show blood of bald eagles in the Great Lakes region, to polar bears in Alaska contain small amounts of the chemical. There continues to be debate regarding the toxicity of the compound.[2]

An accidental spill of a flurochemical rubber on an assistant’s tennis shoe was the beginning to the invention of the product. After exhaustive attempts to remove the spill failed, Sherman moved her intention from removing the spill to using the spill as a protectant from spills. Sherman and Smith received US patent 3574791 on April 13, 1971, for "invention of block and graft copolymers containing water-solvatable polar groups and fluoroaliphatic groups."[3] Sherman holds 13 patents with Smith in flurochemical polymers and polymerization processes.[3]

Due to the success of the product Sherman was featured on Minnesota Public Radio in a call-in segment on WCCO radio's Boone and Erickson show to discuss Scotchgard in 1969. Sherman was recruited to appeal to the housewives in the radio audience.[2]

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 women were not allowed in the mill.[1] At that time in American history, there were very few female chemists; Sherman was a rarity in the corporate environment.[4]

She has been a member of the American Chemical Society for over 50 years.[5]

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

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.[6]


  • Sherman was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2001[7] and has served on the board of directors.
  • Sherman received the Joseph M. Biedenbach Distinguished Service Award in 1991 from the American Society for Engineering Education.[8]
  • She became a Distinguished Alumni Citation Recipient for Scientific Research in 1975.[9]


  • Sherman’s name is an answer to a question in the trivia board game “Eve’s Quest.”[10]
  • She was featured in a History Channel commercial for May 24th Great Inventions week in 200X.[11]
  • Sherman's 1947 high school aptitude test indicated she would be most suited to the role of a housewife. Sherman demanded to take the boy’s version of the aptitude test. The results reflected Sherman's interest in science and listed dentistry or chemistry as her potential career path.[1]

See also

  • List of female scientists


  1. ^ a b c Jadcomm
  2. ^ a b c Public radio
  3. ^ a b USPTO
  4. ^ Da Vinci Institute
  5. ^ ACS
  6. ^
  7. ^ National Inventors Hall of Fame
  8. ^
  9. ^ Awards
  10. ^ Eve's Quest
  11. ^
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Patsy_O’Connell_Sherman". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE