Leo Baekeland invented the first synthetic plastic in 1907.He was able to make the first synthetic plastic because of his wealth.
Baekeland earned his wealth from selling the first commercially successful photographic paper to George Eastman for $750,000 in 1898. This gave him the freedom that he needed to pursue his own research leading to the invention of plastic. In 1905, Baekeland discovered that combining formaldehyde and phenol resulted in an interesting material that could bind powders to one another. He named the material after himself, calling it "Bakelite." This was the first thermosetting plastic.
In 1931, another type of plastic, neoprene, was invented. In 1933, polythene and Perspex were invented. Then in 1938, nylon was invented. Nylon is a wholly synthetic fiber and fabric. It was put in toothbrush bristles and stockings.
Plastic became important for the nation during World War II when plane cockpits were made out of Perspex and polythene was used to insulate the radar. The synthetic used for the tires also came from plastic. Modern plastic includes Teflon (used in non-stick pans), Lycra (used primarily in sportswear materials) and Dacron (used in tents and sailing supplies to keep things from rotting). All of the plastics made today have been directly influenced by Baekeland and his first Bakelite plastic.Learn More
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