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October 21, 2013 at 10:14 AM
By Shawn Vestal
The Spokesman Review / MCT
MOSCOW, Idaho — Malcolm Renfrew didn’t invent Teflon.
But one of the fascinating developments of Renfrew’s fascinating life was that he frequently had to correct people who said he did. It was Renfrew — a son of Spokane who went on to a long, distinguished association with the University of Idaho — who introduced the stuff to the world and who oversaw the team that developed uses for the miracle plastic to which nothing would stick.
Over the past half-century, Teflon has found its way into everything from medical to military applications, but its most famous use — apart from its metaphorical perfection for describing slippery people — is the nonstick frying pan.
“We knew it would be an important chemical,” he once said of Teflon, “although it was not easy to fabricate. The frying pan thing. … I would never have imagined that.”
Renfrew died Saturday in his Moscow home. It was his 103rd birthday. His influence lingers all over the University of Idaho campus — from Renfrew Hall, to the Renfrew lecture series, to the Renfrew fellowship endowment. He helped create the university’s chemistry department and guided decades of scientists through their educations. He painted watercolors of Palouse scenes and played trombone in the Vandal Boosters Non-Marching Pep Band. Two years ago, his birthday was declared Malcolm Renfrew Day in Idaho.
Still, it was his role as a DuPont chemist developing Teflon in the 1930s and ’40s that became his obituary headline.
Renfrew presented the first paper on the substance — titled “Polytetrafluorethylene: heat-resistant, chemically inert plastic” — at a meeting of the American Chemistry Society in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1946; the story was picked up by wire services and ran in newspapers around the country.
“PLASTIC DEFIES HEAT AND ACIDS” read a small headline in The Spokesman-Review at the time. The article quoted Renfrew as saying, “No substance has been found which will dissolve or even swell” the plastic.
Renfrew gave a more colorful account of the speech and surrounding events, including some shenanigans with “barfly newsmen,” in an interview he gave in 1987 to the Chemical Heritage Foundation.
June 27, 2013 at 10:45 AM
MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — The sister of a 19-year-old Pullman, Wash., man who committed suicide last weekend is seeking an apology from an Idaho sheriff’s deputy she says harassed her brother via Facebook in the days before his death.
Alise Smith said her brother’s decision to end his life was his own, but she believes the comments that Andrew Cain received about arrest warrants in Latah County became too much for him.
The sheriff’s office Facebook page included a “wanted poster” and a post congratulating Cain on being the county’s most wanted person of the month for June. Smith said a deputy also sent private messages to her brother via Facebook. Sheriff Wayne Rausch did not immediately reply to an email and phone message seeking confirmation of the private messages.
“It has never been my policy to include editorializing in media releases pertaining to the location and apprehension of persons wanted by the court,” Rausch said in a statement released by his office. “That situation has been resolved.”
Rausch did not confirm or deny that a deputy sent private messages to Cain via Facebook.
Smith said she understood the “wanted poster” but felt the “congratulations” comment and the private messages were an abuse of power.
She told KLEW-TV that she received a text from her brother early last week that said he felt like putting a bullet in his brain. The message included a screen shot of Facebook messages from a deputy, Smith said.
“Eventually, it all just got too much to handle because other people were texting him and messaging him on Facebook and he just couldn’t handle all of the people telling him how awful a person he was,” Smith told KLEW.
Cain fatally shot himself Sunday, Whitman County Coroner Pete Martin said. (more…)
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The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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