Who Invented Plastic?

Plastic means “capable of being molded of modeled”. When heated, plastics are like modelling clay. They can be molded into shapes which last when the materials is cooled.

In making plastic, chemists start with the molecule. the chemist causes molecules from a certain material to from a long chain, the links being the molecules. They new “long-chain” molecule acts differently from the single molecule.

The molecules are said to “polymerize” when they link into chains. By polymerization new materials are made. The hard pieces of polymer are ground into fine powder or made into pallets. Colours are added, and chemicals are worked in to make it flexible.


Chemists knew and had worked with plastics about 125 years ago Vinyl chloride was polymerized in 1838 styrene in 1839, acrylics in 1843, and polyester in 1847. But at that time there was no great need for these synthetic materials.

Natural products such as wood, metals, rubber, hide, and ivory were plentiful. The supply of ivory was first to be used up. So a prize was offered to anyone who developed a substitute for ivory. while working on this project, Jhon Hyatt and his brother Isaiah Hyatt discovered celluloid, which they patented in 1870.

Celluloid had many defects, but their discovery led other chemists to think about developing synthetic materials. In 1907, Leo Baekeland discovered the phenolic plastic, which was the first entirely synthetic material to be produced the phenol plastic, which was the first entirely synthetic material to be produced in large quantities. Since that time many new plastics have been discovered.

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