John A. Cuculo

Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science

John A. Cuculo
June 23, 1924 -­ August 21, 2009

John A. Cuculo was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, attended public schools, and graduated from  Classical High School in 1942. He graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry in 1945. He married Eve Cortese on July 13, 1946 and raised three daughters: Sherry, Patty and Laurie. After working for a local chemical company for one year, he enrolled in the PhD program in Chemistry at Duke University under the direction of Dr. Lucius Bigelow and graduated in 1950.

He began a distinguished career as a research chemist in the Polychemicals Department at the DuPont Experimental Station, Wilmington, Delaware. One of his major projects was the commercialization of high strength monofilament fishing line trade named Stren. In 1968, he became a senior research chemist at DuPont’s Pioneering Research Laboratories. Shortly thereafter, he responded to an ad placed by Bob Work, moved to Raleigh and joined the Textile Chemistry Department in the School of Textiles at North Carolina State University.

With drawing equipment in Nelson Hall

John with Paul Tucker

His 26 years at NC State were spent working with colleagues Paul A. Tucker, T. Waller George, Michael Theil, Ferdinand Lundberg and numerous graduate students. Breakthrough research in producing high strength polymers was made by PhD student Phillip A. Griswold in the early 1970s. That work led to support by the National Science Foundation. A new solvent spinning system for cellulose using ammonia and ammonium thiocyanate was developed while working with graduate student Samuel M. Hudson. That research resulted in commercialization of a new cellulose fiber by Avtex Fibers at their Front Royal, Virginia manufacturing site. Chemical Week reported that the new system reduced the number of separate steps from 15 to nine and time required from 72 hours to eight compared with the viscose system. High strength polyesters were developed in the extrusion / drawing facilities, first in Nelson Hall and later in new facilities on Centennial Campus. Ferdinand Lundberg from Allied­Signal joined the team to run the laboratory. The new polyester was produced at the Allied­Signal plant in Moncure, North Carolina.

John and his team of friends often adjourned to the Faculty Club for lunch. A Cuculo Special sandwich was developed and added to the main menu. After lunch, when John had purposely eaten only half his sandwich, he dutifully wrapped it up and took it back to his office and gave it to one of his students.

John with students and visitor

Ferdinand Lundberg and John with guests

In 1986 he was named Celanese Corporation Professor of Fiber and Polymer Science in recognition of his achievements which included some six patents and 50 articles and papers. In 1992, the professorship was renamed Hoechst Celanese in recognition of the merger/acquisition to form the new company. A consortium was formed that included Allied­Signal and Hoechst Celanese to continue work developing high­strength fibers. Numerous articles appeared in the North Carolina press celebrating the polymer developments. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. granted a research fellowship in 1993 to support student fees and buy new equipment. John retired in August 1994.

In 1996, John was honored with the awarding of the S.G. Smith Memorial Medal by the Textile Institute of Leeds, England. The following photo shows Cuculo receiving the award from Dr. Joe Cunning, also a former DuPont employee.

John died August 21,2009.

Partial List of Students:

Phillip A. Griswold, Dae Wu Ihm, Gao­Yuan Chen, Margaret Frey, Annette Wilson, Larry Wadsworth, Samuel M. Hudson, Jeff Denton, A. Willem deGroot, K.S. Yang, Ed Boudreaux.

Memberships, Scholastic and Professional Affiliations

Phi Lambda Upsilon, Sigma Xi, ACS, Fiber Society, NY Academy of Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Chairman 1983­84 Rayon/Acetate Council. S.G. Smith Award by the Textile Institute

Selected US Patents:

  1. 4,367,191 J.A. Cuculo, S.M. Hudson, A method of forming a cellulose fiber which comprises dissolving cellulose in a solvent comprising ammonia and a salt and subsequently forming a fiber. Filed March 25, 1981 issued 1983.
  2. 5,405,696 John A. Cuculo, Paul A. Tucker, Ferdinand Lundberg, Gao­Yuan Chen, “Ultra­Oriented Crystalline Filament, Filed December 2, 1993. Issued 1995.
  3. A more complete listing may be found at: John A. Cuculo

Selected Publications:

  1. Synthetic­Fiber Research Seeks Ultimate Strength, Raleigh News & Observer, February 22, 1976, page 14­I.
  2. S. M. Hudson and J.A. Cuculo, J. Macromol.Sci, C18, 1, (1980).
  3. S.M. Hudson, J.A.Cuculo, and L.C. Wadsworth, J.Polym.Sci.,Polym. Chem. Ed., 21, 651, (1983).
  4. “Avtex to spin rayon with solvent,” Chemical Week, September 19, 1984, page 16.
  5. Y.S.Chen and J.A.Cuculo, J. Polym. Sci, Part A:Poly.Chem., 24, 2075 (1986).
  6. Numerous North Carolina newspaper clippings, June 20, 1992.
  7. “Strands of Steel” – regarding stronger polyesters, NCSU Alumni magazine, Jan. 1993, page 29.
  8. John A. Cuculo, S. M. Hudson, A. V. Wilson, “Direct Solvents for Cellulose,” International Fiber Journal, June, 1993, pages 50­52, 54, 56­7.
  9. A more complete listing may be found at: John A. Cuculo