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Developer of Cold Wave Dies

March 11, 1988

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) _ Arnold F. Willat, who developed the first cold permanent wave for women, has died. He was 102.

The Detroit-born electrical engineer, who died Monday, boasted in 1952 that he would pay $1,000 to the first woman whose hair he couldn’t curl. A newspaper story at the time said no one collected.

At age 95 he was named to the Cosmetology Hall of Fame.

Willat manufactured and sold his own solutions and equipment for permanent waves for 50 years, and only last year his Willat Co. of San Francisco discontinued manufacturing cold wave solutions. Willat curl papers and dispensers are still found in beauty shops.

One of the nation’s early electrical engineers, with a degree from Georgia Tech in 1907, Willat traveled the East Coast after graduation, and came to San Francisco with his wife in 1913.

At a manufacturer’s request, Willat developed an electricity-and-heat permanent wave machine for beauty shops but eventually found a better way to curl hair.

Willat’s son, Forest of Greenbrae, Calif., said his father gave up rights to several patents in the 1960s after winning large settlements from major manufacturers. The younger Willat said scores of companies soon were making and selling cold wave kits.

Willat is survived by two other sons, Thoreau of New Mexico and Leon of Mill Valley, Calif.; 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Services will be private.

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