Polythene walking stick, 1938.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Made to commemorate the production of the first ton of polythene at ICI's plant in Wallerscote, Durham, in 1938. Succesful large scale production of polythene had been hampered by difficulties of achieving high temperatures and presures. Polythene (also known as polyethene or polyethylene) was discovered in 1933 by Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett at ICI's research laboratory at Winnington, Durham, as the result of a laboratory accident. Polythene was used as insulation for radar cables during World War II and the substance was a closely guarded secret. After the war it began to be produced commercially, for uses such as washing up bowls, bottles and dolls.