Carlyle Harmon

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Frank Carlyle Harmon (January 17, 1905 - March 25, 1997) was a former head of fabrics research for Johnson and Johnson. He is best known for his patent, held jointly with Billy Gene Harper of Dow Chemical, that made the possible the production of modern "superabsorbent" disposable diapers.


Harmon was born in Sugar City, Idaho to Frank Milton Harmon and Sophia Jones. He spent most of his childhood in Santa Clara, California, and he was a lifelong Mormon. At age ten he took a job at a printing office for a man named Henry Roth. In October, 1923 he attended Stanford University, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1927, a master's degree in 1928, and a Ph.D. in 1930. He married the former Delta Arbon on March 22, 1929. After working for the Marathon Paper co. of Wausau, Wisconsin, for a time, Harmon was employed by the Chicopee division of Johnson and Johnson in 1947.

"Superabsorbent" disposable diapers

The disposable diaper, in its original form invented by Victor Mills of Procter & Gamble, required a core of thick rolls of paper in order to adequately contain fluid and guard against diaper rash. This made the diapers undesirably heavy and bulky. In 1966, Harmon and Harper each independently discovered that a small amount of a highly absorbent polymer could be more effectively used in place of rolls of paper in the diaper's core. The two men each filed substantively identical patents on the polymer at the same time.

Because diapers are a...
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