Leo Hendrik Baekeland (November 14, 1863 - February 23, 1944) was a Belgian-born American chemist who invented Velox photographic paper (1893) and Bakelite (1907), an inexpensive, nonflammable, versatile, and popular plastic.
Velox was the first photographic paper that could be printed in artificial light (previous ones has to be printed in sunlight). Baekeland started the Nepera Chemical Company in Yonkers, N.Y., USA, to manufacture Velox. Baekeland sold the rights to Velox to the Eastman Kodak Company.
Bakelite (also called catalin, Patent No. 942,699) is a dense synthetic polymer (a phenolic resin) that was used to make jewelry, game pieces, engine parts, radio boxes, switches, and many, many other objects. Bakelite was the first industrial thermoset plastic (a material that does not change its shape after being mixed and heated). Bakelite plastic is made from carbolic acid (phenol) and formaldehyde, which are mixed, heated, and then either molded or extruded into the desired shape. The Nobel Prize winning German chemist Adolf von Baeyer had experimented with this material in 1872, but did not complete its development or see its potential.
Baekeland started the General Bakelite Company in 1911 (in Perth Amboy, N.J., USA), and produced up to about 200,000 tons of Bakelite annually. Bakelite replaced the very flammable celluloid plastic that had been so popular. The bracelet pictured is made of “butterscotch” bakelite.