Leo Baekeland was born in Ghent, Belgium, in 1863. He was educated at the University of Ghent and at the Charlottenburg Technische Hochschule in Germany.
In 1889 Baekeland emigrated to the United States and set up his own laboratory in New York. Within four years he had invented a photographic paper, Volex, which could be developed in artificial light. In 1899 he sold the invention to Kodak for $1 million.
His next invention was Bakelite. Made from formaldehyde and phenol, Bakelite was the first totally synthetic plastic. In 1909 Baekeland founded the General Bakelite Corporation and his plastic was used for manufacturing the first generation of telephones. The company later became part of the union carbide and carbon company. Leo Baekeland died in 1944.
Last updated: 26th July, 2002