Science: Father of Plastics

This week Philadelphia's Franklin Institute presents one of its coveted gold medals to a man who is much less known to the public than are the changes his work has wrought in the many common things people use, from toothbrush handles, telephones and false gums to gear wheels, automobile parts and airplane bodies. Even more than most scientists, the man is publicity-shy. He is Leo Hendrik Baekeland, inventor of Bakelite, "Father of Plastics."

Born in Ghent in Flemish Belgium 76 years ago, young Leo became an ardent photographer. At night, when his trusting father...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!