The Revolution of 1909

March 20, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

One of the most important inventions of the 20th century became something so commonplace, so utterly taken for granted, that it hardly registers as a technological revolution. Plastic, until  a word for anything flexible, first became a practical item in 1909 with the announcement by inventor Leo Baekeland of a substance he called Bakelite. Two years earlier, he had made the first entirely synthetic material that was malleable and also cheap and durable. It was resistant to heat, chemicals, and electricity, making it especially useful in  radios and cars.

After World War II better plastics took Bakelite's place, and today it is best remembered by collectors of costume jewelry.


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