Leo Baekeland, Belgian-US chemist

Leo Baekeland, Belgian-US chemist

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Credit: CHEMICAL HERITAGE FOUNDATION/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: Leo Henricus Arthur Baekeland (1863-1944), Belgian-US chemist and inventor of Bakelite. Baekeland was an academic chemist in his native Belgium. In 1889 he visited the USA, and decided to settle there. He manufactured a photographic paper called 'Velox', but sold out to Kodak after six years. He then studied the reaction of phenol and methanal which, under the right conditions, produces a dark brown thermosetting resin. He mixed this with a filler, and in 1909 introduced it as Bakelite, the first widely-used synthetic plastic. For many years, Bakelite was the material of choice in electrical appliances.

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