Bakelite powder box, 1921 - 1940.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
From a collection of 292 objects mostly dating from the 1920s and 1930s. The first synthetic thermosetting plastic was patented in 1909 by Leo Baekeland (1863-1944), a Belgian-born chemist who emigrated to the United States in 1889. When combined with a wood flour filler, phenol formaldehyde, known by its trade name 'Bakelite', after its inventor, forms a useful mouldable plastic, with very good electrical insulating properties.