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Leo Hendrik Baekeland


U.S. Patent No. 942,699
Inducted in 1978
Born Nov. 14, 1863 - Died Feb. 23, 1944

Leo Hendrik Baekeland is cited for his research in electric insulation, synthetic resins, and plastics. Using money from his first invention, Velox photographic paper, he established a laboratory where he synthesized "Bakelite," a nonflammable material that was cheaper and more versatile than other known plastics. Bakelite has since been used in everything from engine parts to jewelry to electronics.

Born in Ghent, Belgium, Baekeland graduated with a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Ghent in 1882 and a doctoral degree in 1884. He was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Edinburgh. Baekeland was a professor of chemistry at the University of Ghent from 1882 to 1889 and a professor of chemistry and physics at the Government Higher Normal School of Science, Bruges, Belgium, from 1885 to 1887. In 1893 he founded Nepera Chemical Company, which he operated until 1899. He was president of the Bakelite Corporation from 1910 to 1939.

Baekeland was a member of the U.S. Naval Consulting Board and the U.S. Nitrate Supply Commission, chairman of the committee on patents of the National Research Council, trustee of the Institute of International Education, and a member of the advisory board of the Chemical Division of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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