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Who Invented Plastic?

You have them in your room, the bathroom, kitchen, school, work, and just any place you can think of. The synthetic material has come a long way and is no stranger to households. While their existence blends in your everyday life, have you ever wondered who invented plastic?

The first person who invented plastic is a man named Alexander Parkes, who hailed from Birmingham, England. Then, the plastic he invented in 1862 was made from cellulose that was treated with solvent and nitric acid, which allowed it to be molded into any shape when it was heated, but kept intact to its molded shape when cool. This invention was called Parkesine after his own name. He thought Parkesine could replace rubber, but raw materials for Parkesine were too costly, so manufacturers were not keen.

Then in the late 19th century, the game of Billiard was extremely popular. As the materials used to make the billiard balls were made out of elephant trunks, many elephants were killed for the fun and enjoyment of the game. Animal advocates soon came into the picture, which was when John Wesley Hyatt appeared with his discovery. As he was working in his printing shop one day, he spilled a bottle of collodion, in which he realized the solution was flexible, yet strong. From then, he conducted several experiments to see if it could be used in billiards, but found that it was too fragile for the game. In one of his experiments, he added camphor into the solution, heated it, and then was able to mold it into a durable object. This was then the introduction of celluloid plastic, which was later also used to make films and photographs.

Then, in 1907, Leo Baekeland discovered the first fully synthetic plastic which was called baskelite plastic. Using the Bakelizer, an apparatus he invented that allowed him control over pressure and heat over chemicals, he came up with the baskelite, which is a pure, synthetic resin that would mold into shapes when heated, and remain intact forever when cooled, and is not even biodegradable. From then on, the durable, and heat/chemical-resistant was used in every industry.

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