100+ Years of Plastics
This volume consists of written chapters taken from the presentations at the symposium "100+ Years of Plastics: Leo Baekeland and Beyond", held March 22, 2010, at the 239th ACS National Meeting in San Francisco. The symposium celebrates the 100th anniversary of the formation of General Bakelite Corp., which was preceded by Leo Baekland's synthesis of Bakelite in 1907 and the unveiling of the Bakelite process in 1909. It is quite reasonable to use the synthesis of
Bakelite as the starting point of the Age of Plastics. Indeed, Time magazine in its June 14, 1999, issue on the 100 most influential people of the 20th century chose Leo Baekeland and his Bakelite synthesis as the sole representative of chemistry.
Leo Baekeland and Bakelite are the topics of the first four chapters of this volume. The first two chapters come from the perspective of Baekeland family members. Carl Kaufmann is related to the Baekeland family through marriage and is the author of the only full-length biography of Baekeland, published as a master's thesis from the University of Delaware. As a family member Kaufmann had access to all of Baekeland's papers. This first chapter (Leo H. Baekeland) is not only a biographical
sketch, but an exploration of Baekeland's effect on the chemical industry. Hugh Karraker is Baekeland's great-grandson, and his chapter (A Portrait of Leo H. Baekeland) provides a family picture of the great inventor. Gary Patterson's chapter (Materia Polymerica: Bakelite) goes into the history of Bakelite
chemistry, while Burkhard Wagner's contribution (Leo Baekeland's Legacy-100 Years of Plastics) covers the history of Bakelite manufacture through time and space, finishing with a description of another Baekeland legacy, the Baekeland Award given through the North Jersey Section of the ACS.
In later chapters, Les Sperling (History of Interpenetrating Polymer Networks Starting with Bakelite-Based Compositions) covers the improvements in interpenetrating networks. James Economy and Z. Parkar (Historical Perspectives on Phenolic Resins and High-Temperature Aromatic Polyesters of p-Hydroxybenzoic Acid and Their Copolyesters) follow the paths of resoles, novolaks, and related chemicals.