Edith Flanigen was born on January 28, 1929 in the city of Buffalo, New York. She graduated from D'Youville College in Buffalo as valedictorian and class president. In 1952, she gained her Masters from Syracuse University in Inorganic-Physical Chemistry. After her graduation, she began researching for the Union Carbide Corporation, as well as a joint venture of the AlliedSignal and the Union Carbide called the UOP.
In 1956, Edith started working with molecular sieves, "crystal compounds with molecular-sized pores" which were used as filters of mixtures as well as catalysts. Throughout her career, she invented over 200 different synthetic substances, including her most important called "zeolite Y." "Zeolite Y" was used to refine petroleum, a catalyst used in converting crude oil into gasoline. She also co-invented a type of synthetic emerald that was used in jewelry for only five or ten years during the mid-1900's.
In 1992, Edith received the Perkin Medal and decided to retire from her occupation in 1994. Her inventions have made gasoline production safer, cleaner, and greater. Her sieves are also used in environmental clean-up and water purification.
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