Patsy O'Connell Sherman - Scotchgard

Patsy Sherman

Patsy O’Connell Sherman was born on the 15th of September 1930 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 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 Patsy's interest in science and listed dentistry or chemistry as her potential career path. Later she was a 1952 alumnus of Gustavus Adolphus College located in St. Peter, Minnesota.

Patsy Sherman was 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.Scotchgard would become, arguably, the most famous and widely used stain repellent and soil removal product in the USA.

An accidental spill of a fluorochemical rubber on an assistant's tennis shoe was the beginning to the invention of Scotchgard. 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 3574791 on April 13, 1971, for "invention of block and graft copolymers containing water-solvatable polar groups and fluoroaliphatic groups."

Sherman holds 13 patents with Smith in flurochemical polymers and polymerization processes. 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.

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. At that time in American history, there were very few female chemists; Sherman was a rarity in the corporate environment. She has been a member of the American Chemical Society for over 50 years.