William E. Shinn

1900-1995
Professor Textiles, North Carolina State University

William Edward Shinn 1900- 1995
Years of Service NC State 1920-1969

William E. Shinn was born in Cabarrus County, North Carolina on June 13, 1900, the son of a cotton farmer, John Calvin and his wife Laura Barringer Shinn.  He graduated from a private high school in Charlotte and began working for Cannon Mills at the age of 16 in China Grove, NC.  He entered NC State as a freshman at age 20, worked for Cannon during the summers and earned a B.S. degree in Textile Manufacturing in 1924.  He was the valedictorian for the entire graduating class at State.  Following graduation, he returned to Cannon Mills in Kannapolis for a short period, then returned to NC State for further studies. He organized and taught the first courses in knitting offered by NC State.  He earned the M.S. in Textile Manufacturing in 1928, one of the first students to complete the degree.  His thesis, Creative Textile Design, is available in the library today.  Following graduation, he moved to Clemson College.  He served as head of the weaving and designing department at Clemson College from 1930-1935.  During a leave of absence, he served as a textile technologist for the U.S. Bureau of Standards.

In 1935, he left Clemson and returned to NC State as professor where he taught courses in textile testing, advanced textile design, and fabric analysis.  In 1942, he was named Head of the Department of Knitting Technology. He served as a major in chemical warfare for the U.S. Army from 1942-1944.

Following the war, he returned to NC State and headed the Knitting Department.  One especially interesting project was the development of a synthetic aorta using a modified necktie machine.  Dean Campbell approached him with an opportunity.  Dr. Paul Sanger of Charlotte Memorial Hospital was experimenting with artificial arterial grafts.  His colleague, Dr. Frederick H. Taylor approached Dean Campbell for help.  The woven tubes being used then lacked flexibility, and Dr. Sanger felt that if a knitted tube could be developed, the flexibility could be greatly improved. (1) He started from scratch, testing a variety of fibers and production methods.  He eventually selected DuPont Dacron polyester from Kinston, NC.  Professor Shinn and others made hundreds of synthetic aortas at NC State between 1955 and 1971, when private industry began manufacturing the aortas with virtually no changes. The ones at NC State were made at the department’s expense and a patent was never obtained.  A later version of this implant was actually implanted in Dean Campbell in 1970, the man who authorized the original research.  Among other major research accomplishments were warp sizing of synthetic staple yarns and fibers, and scientific methods in knitting technology.

The Proxy Aorta 1955
Shinn demonstrates the knitting machine to Dean Campbell -no date

Following the war, he returned to NC State and headed the Knitting Department.  One especially interesting project was the development of a synthetic aorta using a modified necktie machine.  Dean Campbell approached him with an opportunity.  Dr. Paul Sanger of Charlotte Memorial Hospital was experimenting with artificial arterial grafts.  His colleague, Dr. Frederick H. Taylor approached Dean Campbell for help.  The woven tubes being used then lacked flexibility, and Dr. Sanger felt that if a knitted tube could be developed, the flexibility could be greatly improved. (1) He started from scratch, testing a variety of fibers and production methods.  He eventually selected DuPont Dacron polyester from Kinston, NC.  Professor Shinn and others made hundreds of synthetic aortas at NC State between 1955 and 1971, when private industry began manufacturing the aortas with virtually no changes. The ones at NC State were made at the department’s expense and a patent was never obtained.  A later version of this implant was actually implanted in Dean Campbell in 1970, the man who authorized the original research.  Among other major research accomplishments were warp sizing of synthetic staple yarns and fibers, and scientific methods in knitting technology.

Professor Shinn shows his grade report books to Professor Joe Porter at his retirement 1969

He was the author of a number of widely-used textbooks, including “Principles of Knitting,” Vol. I, 1946; Vol. II, 1949, 2 Vol. Set 3rd edition 1957, Clark Publishing Co., Charlotte; “Knitting Handbook,” and “Outlines in Textile Costing, 1948”; Full-Fashioned Hosiery Knitting, 1949

He was honored for his service to the industry when the National Knitwear Manufacturer’s Association chose him as the recipient of their Award of Distinction for 1968.  He was a research consultant for Cannon Mills, Sun Chemical Company and the Underwear Institute of New York (since 1954).  He was Chester Roth Distinguished Professor of Textiles, a member of the societies of Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi, American Knitting Technologists, Sigma Tau Sigma, and Phi Psi fraternities.

Shinn and his wife, the former Virginia Weatherbee of Wilmington and New Bern, NC, had three children, Robert of Spartanburg, South Carolina; Elizabeth and William E., Jr., an attorney in Decatur, AL.  Professor Shinn passed away at age ninety-four on February 18, 1995.

Patents:

No patents were found in a Google Patent search.  However, at least nine US patents cite Shinn’s books!  US Patent 3,504,672-Surgical and Animal Bandaging; 3,626,663-Blanket for Horses and the Like; 4,502,301- Support Stocking Product or the Like; 3,296,837-Thread Cutting Device; 3,837,185-Method and Apparatus for Forming Loops in Circular Knitting Machines; 3,986,371-Method for Forming Loops in Circular Knitting Machines; 3,864,941-Multifeed Circular Knitting Machine; 2,898,752-Pick for Knitting Machines; and 4,527,402- Program-controlled knitting machine, Method and Products Thereof.

Books:

  1. Shinn, William E., Elements of modern knitted fabric, growth and development, 1968
  2. Shinn, William E., Flat Knitting, North Carolina State University, 1976?
  3. Shinn, William E., Garment Manufacture, 1960, North Carolina State College.
  4. Shinn, William E., Hosiery Manufacture, 1950, The Technical Press, Raleigh
  5. Shinn, William E., Knitting Handbook, 1947
  6. Shinn, William E., Principles of Knitting, Vol. 1, 1946; Vol. 2, 1949, Clark Publishing Co., Charlotte
  7. Shinn, William E., Rayon Processing, 1930
  8. Shinn, William E., The Effect of Moisture on Strength and Related Properties of Rayon, Clemson College,1929
  9. Shinn, William E., Creative Textile Design, Thesis, North Carolina State College, Raleigh, 1928

NC State Special Collections has three archival boxes, four photograph Albums Accession no. 1971-0012 1971-0013 and 1976-0020.

Sources:

  1. Mock, Gary N., A Century of Progress: The Textile Program North Carolina State University 1899-1999North Carolina Textile Foundation, Raleigh, 2001.
  2. Li, P, “The Proxy Aorta,” Textile Forum, April 1955, pages 13-14 and Cover.
  3. “Man Made Artery Keeps Dean Alive,” Raleigh News & Observer, January 19, 1971.
  4. “Professor Shinn Now Textile Consultant,” School of Textiles News, Vol. 1, No. 4, July 1969.