An early plastic, invented in 1907 by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian who had emigrated to the United States. Formally defined as ‘a condensation product of the reaction between phenol and formaldehyde’, bakelite had far greater properties of durability and resistance than its predecessor celluloid. Dubbed by Baekeland ‘The Material of a Thousand Uses’, bakelite was used for the manufacture of a wide range of products—fountain pens, radios, combs, cameras, costume jewellery, furniture, tableware and some of the vital components of cars, planes, and industrial machinery. Although eventually superseded by more advanced plastics, bakelite enjoyed a revival of popularity in the style-conscious 1980s.
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