Learn how a Polish monk created the first bulletproof vest and, in doing so, changed the world.
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In 1897, at a public demonstration in Chicago, a man accomplished the unprecedented and seemingly physics-defying feat of stopping a bullet. After being shot with a revolver at close-range, and temporarily falling to the ground, the man was completely unscathed. That man, Kazimierz Żegleń, had succeeded in creating a vest that made him bulletproof.
In this episode, our hosts John and Lea discuss the man behind the vest, Kazimierz Żegleń, and the story of its creation. Who was Żegleń in the first place? How was he inspired to create a potentially life-saving vest and how did he manage to invent it? What was the immediate impact of this supposedly bulletproof vest? Did it save any lives? And finally, how has Żegleń’s invention influenced modern-day bulletproof vests?
[02:10] Introduction to Kazimierz Żegleń, creator of the bulletproof vest
[03:33] Why would a monk become interested in durable materials?
[05:00] How did Żegleń create his bulletproof vest?
[08:10] How Żegleń’s daring public demonstration of vest his vest came to fruition?
[10:45] How is silk even capable of stopping bullets?
[12:45] Why Żegleń went to Europe and met the ‘Polish Edison’
[16:00] Did Żegleń manage to turn his invention into a commercial success?
[18:25] Why was 1901 such an important year for bulletproof vests?
[20:20] The legacy of Żegleń’s invention
Sławomir Łotysz / professor at the Institute of the History of Science at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw. Professor Łotysz kindly agreed to tell us the story of Kazimierz Żegleń, as well as provide us with lots of materials on Żegleń's inventions and biography. Professor Łotysz's research was made possible largely thanks to the generous support of the Chemical Heritage Foundation of Philadelphia.
Lisa Treynor / curator of Firearms at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, who kindly agreed to explain to us how on earth silk is capable of stopping bullets.
Not Drunk by The Joy Drops
SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, Lea Berriault, John Beauchamp, Nitzan Reisner, Michael Keller & Barbara Rogala