Bakelite is the earliest form of synthetic plastic. Its bright colors and durability make it a collector's item today.

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  • On November 14, 1863, Leo Hendrik Baekeland, who would develop the first synthetic plastic, was born in Ghent, Belgium. After moving to the United States, Baekeland set about developing a moldable substance that could be used to make durable, long-lasting objects. After 10 years of work, he succeeded in creating polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride—better known as Bakelite.
     
    Bakelite was the first plastic made from synthetic sources. The remarkable material was used in the manufacture of brightly colored kitchenware, radios, firearms, and jewelry. Plastics ushered in a new era in mass-produced commercial products. Modern plastics are more flexible and less brittle than Bakelite. However, the material is still used as a heat-absorbing substance in missile warheads and spacecraft.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    brittle Adjective

    fragile or easily broken.

    commercial Adjective

    having to do with the buying and selling of goods and services.

    durable Adjective

    strong and long-lasting.

    flexible Adjective

    able to bend easily.

    plastic Noun

    chemical material that can be easily shaped when heated to a high temperature.

    spacecraft Noun

    vehicle designed for travel outside Earth's atmosphere.

    synthetic Adjective

    manufactured by people, not occurring naturally.