GREGORY TOBIAS / CHEMICAL HERITAGE FOUNDATION / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GREGORY TOBIAS / CHEMICAL HERITAGE FOUNDATION / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Celluloid billiard balls. These balls were developed as an alternative to the traditional ivory balls, and were patented in 1869 by US inventor John Wesley Hyatt (1837-1920). Celluloid is a mixture of nitrocellulose and camphor. It is a thermoplastic, the first to be discovered, meaning it can be remelted and remoulded. Hyatt's work was based on the patent he acquired from the British inventor Alexander Parkes (1813-1890), who had named the plastic Parkesine in 1856. Celluloid became a popular replacement for ivory and wood before more stable and less flammable thermoplastics were discovered.
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