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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Artificial Cloth  
  The creation of fabrics without organic natural fibers.  

Probably the first time this is mentioned in science fiction; Gernsback certainly introduced the idea of artificial fibers and fabrics being produced at an industrial scale to most people.

A few days later Ralph took Alice to one of the great industrial artificial cloth works. They flew to Pennsylvania, where the great artificial silk, cotton, and wool mills were located. Ralph explained that during the 20th century silk had finally been made artificially from wood and chemicals. This was then known as artificial silk. But only during the last century had it been possible to manufacture artificial cotton and artificial wool, synthetically from wood and other chemicals. Moreover, they wore better than real cotton and real wool.

In the enormous plant were immense tanks in which the raw materials were first cooked and then treated by chemicals until the fibers issued in fine microscopic streams from nozzles under hydraulic pressure, the threads were then wound on huge reels. From here the hanks were sent to the spinneries and cloth-weaving mills.

Of particular interest was the new kind of cloth, which was much fighter than wool or cotton, and, at the same time, cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This material was made from cork, which was first pulverized and then afterwards digested by means of chemicals. Under hydraulic pressure, a somewhat thick thread was obtained, which had all the good properties of cork, but none of its poor ones. This cork thread, when woven into cloth, made a texture both light and durable, had a velvety touch to the fingers, and being a poor heat conductor, protected the wearer from heat in the summer and cold in the winter.

A number of combinations were made whereby cork thread and silk thread were spun together, giving an entirely new product, with all the virtues of silk as well as those of cork.

From Ralph 124c 41 +, by Hugo Gernsback.
Published by Modern Electrics in 1911
Additional resources -

The first commercially successful artificial fiber was nylon, developed by DuPont in the 1930's. However, there were some artificial fibers produced in the 1880's. My favorite was an artificial silk, Chardonnet silk, created by by Hilaire de Chardonnet as a response to a silkworm epidemic. He discovered that nitrocellulose could be a fibrous replacement for silk. Unfortunately, it was intensely flammable, as you might expect.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Ralph 124c 41 +
  More Ideas and Technology by Hugo Gernsback
  Tech news articles related to Ralph 124c 41 +
  Tech news articles related to works by Hugo Gernsback

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