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A short history lesson on PLASTIC

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci invented the first form of natural plastic during the renaissance period. The plastic Da Vinci created was made from both animal and vegetable glues combined with organic fibers. This mixture was then used to coat the leaves of cabbage and papers. When this combination dried Da Vinci was left with a product that would be described today as a plastic like substance!

Alexander Parkes

In 1862, Alexander Parkes was responsible for introducing the first man made plastic at the Great International Exhibition in London. This man made plastic was nicknamed Parkesine. Parkesine was an organic cellulose material that once heated, could be strategically molded into certain shapes and would keep shape when it was cooled. Unfortunately, Parkesine’s life span lasted only a short period of time due to an extremely expensive production cost of raw materials. (1)

Leo Baekland

Leo Baekland may possibly be responsible for what is to be considered one of the greatest inventions of the 20 th century. In 1907 Leo Baekland was trying to find a more efficient insulator for electrical energy, which was at that time becoming more expensive as the demand grew and the supply shrunk. After years of hard work Leo Baekland invented “Balelite.” Baekland then combined one of his earlier inventions, the “bakelizer” (a heavy iron vessel that was part pressure cooker and part basement boiler) with the “Balelite” which allowed him to precisely control heat and pressure, therefore allowing him to also control the reactions of chemicals. With the help of this new invention Baekland was able to form a resin which when hardened, would keep the shape of the mold, wouldn’t burn, boil, melt, or dissolve when touched with any common acid or solvent. The invention of the Balelite lead the way for other additions to the world of plastics including rayon, cellophane, nylon, PVC, saran, Teflon, polyethylene, and Velcro! (2)


(1) Rossella Lorenzi, “Da Vinci Invented Natural Plastics,” Discovery News, 4 Feb.2004 ed.

(2) 2005, American Plastics Council “The History of Plastic,”