James M. Faria



James Faria and Robert Ted Wright were the co-developers of artificial stadium turf for the Monsanto Company in 1965. The impetus for artificial turf research and development was not the furtherance of professional sport, as might be assumed by the fact that these products are most visibly displayed in athletic stadiums. Monsanto, a large chemical products company, had become interested in the development of an artificial grass after the United States government had commissioned a study in 1958 that had concluded that inner city schools did not have sufficient green space to permit outdoor physical education activities. Monsanto saw an opportunity to develop a surface that could address this need.

In 1965, Faria and Wright had developed their product to the point at which the manufacturing process could be patented. Wright invented the fiber that comprised the artificial grass, and Faria invented the process whereby the fiber was woven into a base that could be laid over any surface. Faria and Wright patented their invention as monofilament ribbon pile product. Monsanto initially determined that it would market the product as Chemgrass.

Chemgrass became famous almost by accident. When the Houston AstroDome, the world's first domed stadium was constructed in 1965, its owners intended that the playing surface would be natural grass. Despite intensive efforts, natural turf could not be grown inside the AstroDome. Faria, acting without the authority of Monsanto, entered the company into an agreement with the AstroDome ownership to have Chemgrass installed. The name of the product was changed to AstroTurf, a name that quickly became the generic term for all forms of artificial grass used in sports stadiums.

The legacy created by Faria and Wright's invention is an interesting one. Astroturf was a remarkably popular playing surface choice for both indoor domes and outdoor football stadiums in the 1970s and into the 1980s. Although players in sports such as American football generally disliked playing on it, the surface was thought to be extremely unyielding, leading to repetitive strain injuries in the hips and the joints of the lower legs. Many football players sustained a type of chronic ligament injury known as "turf toe," for the same reason. Sliding along the surface in the course of a tackle or when diving for the ball also tended to cause abrasions to the players arms and legs. FIFA, the international soccer governing body, would not permit games to be played on artificial turf, citing both a higher injury rate and the unnaturally higher bounce of the soccer ball off the playing surface.

Artificial turf has a distinct advantage in the conduct of certain sports. It tends to be a faster surface on which to run, making games like field hockey much quicker when played on the artificial surface.

Technological developments that have built upon the original AstroTurf design have produced second and third generations of artificial surfaces that are significantly softer and more player friendly than the original AstroTurf.

SEE ALSO Abrasions, cuts, lacerations; Foot: Anatomy and physiology; Football injuries.