Leo Hendrik Baekeland was born in Ghent, Belgium, in 1863. He immigrated to the United States in 1889. His first major invention was Velox, a photographic printing paper that could be developed under artificial light. Baekeland sold the rights Velox to George Eastman and Kodak for for one million dollars in 1899. He then started his own laboratory in Yonkers, New York, where he invented Bakelite in 1907, a synthetic substitute for the shellac used in electronic insulation.
Bakelite was made by mixing Carbolic Acid with Formaldehyde, it is considered the first plastic. In 1909, Bakelite was introduced to the general public at a chemical conference. Baekeland founded the General Bakelite Corp. In 1944, Baekeland died at the age of eighty years in Beacon, N.Y.
Bakerlite was used to manufacture everything form telephone handsets or costume jewelry for example as well as engine parts and insulation for electronics.