Leo Baekeland (1863-1944)

Leo Henricus Arthur Baekeland FRSE (Hon) (November 14, 1863 – February 23, 1944) was a Belgian-American chemist. He is best known for the inventions of Velox photographic paper in 1893 and Bakelite in 1907. He has been called "The Father of the Plastics Industry" for his invention of Bakelite, an inexpensive, nonflammable, versatile, and popular plastic, which marked the beginning of the modern plastics industry.

Leo Baekeland was born in Ghent, Belgium, the son of a cobbler and a house maid. He told The Literary Digest: "The name is a Flemish word meaning 'Land of Beacons.'" He spent much of his early life in Ghent, Belgium. He graduated with honours from the Ghent Municipal Technical School and was awarded a scholarship by the City of Ghent to study chemistry at the University of Ghent, which he entered in 1880. He acquired a PhD maxima cum laude at the age of 21. After a brief appointment as Professor of Physics and Chemistry at the Government Higher Normal School in Bruges (1887-1889) he was appointed associate professor of chemistry at Ghent in 1889. Baekeland married Céline Swarts, the daughter of his professor Theodore Swarts and Celine (Platteau) Swarts, on August 8, 1889. They had three children, George, Nina, and Jenny.

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