Polythene pill box, 1936.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Made from the first pound of polyethylene to be produced at the ICI Research Department, this box was presented to Mr Frank Bebbington, one of the research team, to commemorate the event. 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. The material initially proved difficult to manufacture in quantity however, due to problems of providing the required conditions of high temperature and presure.