One of two "silk" purses made from sows' ears.

One of two "silk" purses made from sows' ears.

Say something is impossible and that indomitable MIT spirit immediately wants to prove you wrong. Such was the case even with some of the Institute’s earliest alumni. Case in point: Arthur Dehon Little, who graduated from MIT in 1884, decided to challenge the notion that you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Chemists at his consultancy, Arthur D. Little, Inc. in Cambridge created two of the rare accessories in 1921 using—cover your eyes, animal lovers—one hundred pounds of sows’ ears. One is now in the Smithsonian.

Find out how the scientists made the “silk” purses and learn more about the Arthur D. Little collection, which was donated to MIT by his family and an alumni group.