Inside the Collection

Tag: Bakelite

Life Cycles: Sustainable Materials Library

January 10, 2018

Keinton Butler
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.

What is plastic? a chemical controversy

August 3, 2011

Debbie Rudder
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.