Semon, Waldo Lonsbury
- David Marc
Semon, Waldo Lonsbury (10 September 1898–26 May 1999), research chemist who invented malleable synthetic compounds, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), commonly known as "vinyl", research chemist who invented malleable synthetic compounds, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), commonly known as “vinyl,” was born in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Flora Blanche Lonsbury and Franklin Emerson Semon, a civil engineer. The family remained in Demopolis only until Semon's father completed contracted work and then moved, a career pattern that resulted in Semon attending schools in nine towns in five states before graduating from Lincoln High School in Seattle in 1916. A prodigy who excelled in the sciences at an early age, he was often bored in the classroom and began conducting electrical experiments at home as a child. He spent his teenage summers working on surveying crews at jobs normally requiring a college diploma. In an interview for his biography, he said, “At 17, I think I was rather conceited. I had read most of the scientific books in the [Seattle libraries]. I could read a great deal of German. I had been on the high school debating team and read many of the decisions of the Supreme Court. There was a great question in my mind whether I should go to college at all. After all, college graduates were so stuffy” (Smith, p. 13). To his parents' dismay, he refused to apply to college....