From pg 250ish:
Plasticity has its grand tradition and main stream, which happens to flow
by way of du Pont and their famous employee Carothers, known as The Great
Synthesist. His classic study of large molecules spanned the decade of the twenties
and brought us directly to nylon, which not only is a delight to the fetishist and
a convenience to the armed insurgent, but was also, at the time and well within
the System, an announcement of Plasticity’s central canon: that chemists were no
longer to be at the mercy of Nature. They could decide now what properties they
wanted a molecule to have, and then go ahead and build it. At du Pont, the next
step after nylon was to introduce aromatic rings into the polyamide chain. Pretty
soon a whole family of “aromatic polymers” had arisen: aromatic polyamides,
polycarbonates, polyethers, polysulfanes.
Puts me very much in the mind of synth bio today. (This story falls into the ‘too good to check’ category, and besides since I’m using it for allegory, I don’t care if it’s historical or rhetorical.) What, do you suppose, is the nylon of synthetic biology? The application that will not only escape from the lab, but if need be wrenched from its hold to satisfy so basic a desire as to make women somehow prettier to men?