Triangular polythene medallion, 1938.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Made to commemorate the production of the first ton of polyethylene at ICI, Wallerscote, the medallion is marked 'DEC.1938 WALLERSCOTE' and attached to a metal clip marked 'FB' (Frank Bebbington). Polythene (also known as polyethene or polyethylene) was discovered in 1933 by Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett, two scientists working at ICI's research laboratory at Winnington, Durham, as the result of a laboratory accident. The first patents for polythene were registered in 1936, and a year later the first practical use for the material, as a film, was discovered. Polythene was used as an insulating material for radar cables during World War II, and the substance was a closely guarded secret. After the war it began to be produced commercially.