Baekeland, Leo Hendrik

Baekeland, Leo Hendrik
b. 14 November 1863 Saint-Martens-Latern, Belgium
d. 23 February 1944 Beacon, New York, USA
Belgian/American inventor of the Velox photographic process and the synthetic plastic Bakélite.
The son of an illiterate shoemaker, Baekeland was first apprenticed in that trade, but was encouraged by his mother to study, with spectacular results. He won a scholarship to Gand University and graduated in chemistry. Before he was 21 he had achieved his doctorate, and soon afterwards he obtained professorships at Bruges and then at Gand. Baekeland seemed set for a distinguished academic career, but he turned towards the industrial applications of chemistry, especially in photography.
Baekeland travelled to New York to further this interest, but his first inventions met with little success so he decided to concentrate on one that seemed to have distinct commercial possibilities. This was a photographic paper that could be developed in artificial light; he called this "gas light" paper Velox, using the less sensitive silver chloride as a light-sensitive agent. It proved to have good properties and was easy to use, at a time of photography's rising popularity. By 1896 the process began to be profitable, and three years later Baekeland disposed of his plant to Eastman Kodak for a handsome sum, said to be $3–4 million. That enabled him to retire from business and set up a laboratory at Yonkers to pursue his own research, including on synthetic resins. Several chemists had earlier obtained resinous products from the reaction between phenol and formaldehyde but had ignored them. By 1907 Baekeland had achieved sufficient control over the reaction to obtain a good thermosetting resin which he called "Bakélite". It showed good electrical insulation and resistance to chemicals, and was unchanged by heat. It could be moulded while plastic and would then set hard on heating, with its only drawback being its brittleness. Bakelite was an immediate success in the electrical industry and Baekeland set up the General Bakelite Company in 1910 to manufacture and market the product. The firm grew steadily, becoming the Bakélite Corporation in 1924, with Baekeland still as active President.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
President, Electrochemical Society 1909. President, American Chemical Society 1924. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences 1936.
Further Reading
J.Gillis, 1965, Leo Baekeland, Brussels.
A.R.Matthis, 1948, Leo H.Baekeland, Professeur, Docteur ès Sciences, chimiste, inventeur et grand industriel, Brussels.
J.K.Mumford, 1924, The Story of Bakélite.
C.F.Kettering, 1947, memoir on Baekeland, Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 24 (includes a list of his honours and publications).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Baekeland , Leo Hendrik — (1863–1944) Belgian–American industrial chemist Baekeland was born in Ghent and educated at the university there, graduating in 1884. He was professor of physics and chemistry at Bruges in 1887 and returned to Ghent the next year as assistant… …   Scientists

  • Baekeland, Leo Hendrik — ▪ American chemist born Nov. 14, 1863, Ghent died Feb. 23, 1944, Beacon, N.Y., U.S.       U.S. industrial chemist who helped found the modern plastics (plastic) industry through his invention of Bakelite, the first thermosetting plastic (a… …   Universalium

  • Baekeland, Leo (Hendrik) — born Nov. 14, 1863, Ghent, Belg. died Feb. 23, 1944, Beacon, N.Y., U.S. Belgian born U.S. industrial chemist. A teacher of chemistry in Belgium, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1889. He invented Velox, the first commercially successful photographic… …   Universalium

  • Baekeland, Leo Hendrik — ► (1863 1944) Químico belga. Fue el inventor del plástico baquelita …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Baekeland, Leo (Hendrik) — (14 nov. 1863, Gante, Bélgica–23 feb. 1944, Beacon, N.Y., EE.UU.). Químico industrial estadounidense nacido en Bélgica. Fue profesor de química en Bélgica y emigró a EE.UU. en 1889. Inventó el Velox, el primer papel fotográfico comercialmente… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Baekeland, Leo Hendrik —  (1863–1944) Belgian born American chemist who invented Bakelite …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Leo Hendrik Baekeland — Leo Hendrik Baekeland. Leo Hendrik Baekeland (* 14. November 1863 in Gent; † 23. Februar 1944 in Beacon, New York) war ein belgisch amerikanischer Chemiker und Erfinder. Baekeland entwickelte in den Jahren 1905 bis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Leo Hendrik Baekeland — Leo Baekeland Leo Baekeland Leo Hendrik Baekeland, né en 1863 à Gand et mort en 1944, est un chimiste belge, connu pour ses recherches en photographie et sur les matières plastiques. Biogra …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Leo Hendrik Baekeland — (Gante, 14 de noviembre de 1863 – Beacon, Nueva York, 23 de febrero de 1944) fue un químico de origen belga, que desarrolló entre otros inventos la baquelita y el papel fotográfico Velox. Baekeland recibió el título en Química en la universidad… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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