In 1907, while developing an alternative to shellac, a natural resin secreted from the East Asian lac bug and used to insulate electrical cables in the early 20th century, Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland invented the world’s first mouldable synthetic polymer, called Bakelite.
Inside the Collection
Bakelite is rightly famous as the first fully synthetic plastic (defined as an organic material that can be moulded under heat and/or pressure). Its name immortalises its inventor, Leo Baekeland. The Museum's bust of this balding moustachioed chemist and industrialist, made from a translucent red version of his phenol-formaldehyde resin, also celebrates his place in technological history.