Part 1: Samuel Kistler, Inventor of Aerogel

By Dr. Mike Ayers, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Contributor
May 2000 Editor’s Note:

This is the first in an eight-part series about Dr. Samuel Stephens Kistler, the inventor of aerogel. It is a great story and details the origins of aerogel. In it you will discover that aerogel was invented some time between 1929 and 1930, believe it or not, and was first commercialized as early as the 1950’s. A huge thanks to Dr. Mike Ayers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who put this history together in commemoration for the Sixth International Symposium on Aerogels in 2000 for contributing this legacy to

Dr. Samuel Stephens Kistler, Inventor of Aerogel

Dr. Samuel Stephens Kistler, Inventor of Aerogel

In a minimum of words, Samuel Kistler is an intellectual gentleman. He is intensely dedicated and committed to the better products of the human mind. Although, in his association with other individuals, he is tolerant, understanding, and highly ethical, you will not necessarily find him to be comfortable company. In a kind and considerate way, he can probe and pry in his associates’ minds. More than any other individual I know, he is highly skilled in the art of radiating mental stimulation. – Dr. L. Dale Harris, ca. 1963

At the beginning of the new century, it is uncertain how many scientists have worked with aerogels. What is certain, however, is that all of them owe a debt of gratitude to Samuel Stephens Kistler, the scientist who prepared the first aerogels and spent a large part of the past century studying their properties and uses. There was much more to Kistler’s life than aerogels, however. His career spanned many disciplines, from chemistry and engineering, to education, science policy and world affairs. As the sixth International Symposium on Aerogels approaches, we respectfully present the following profile of this dedicated scientist.

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