Israel Journal of Chemistry
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© 2019 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim Since Staudinger's recognition that polymers were long chain molecules with covalent bonds between repeating units, the field has evolved tremendously. In addition to their many structural roles, polymers have been developed to exhibit “smart” stimuli-responsive behavior. This article will describe the evolution of selected classes of smart polymers including those responsive to changes in pH, temperature, light, and mechanical stimuli, as well as self-immolative polymers and their application in drug delivery, sensors, and actuators. It will also highlight key advancements in polymer chemistry that enabled rapid progress over the past ∼20 years. Whether the key achievements were predictable will be discussed, and the extent to which polymer science remains an independent science versus a service tool will be addressed. Finally, some possibilities for the evolution of the field over the next 20–30 years will be described.