The Redding Pilot Feature
by Janis Gibson, April 11, 2016
What is Bakelite?
That question, asked of Times Square visitors, opens a new documentary that provides the answer: it was the first synthetic compound, which led to plastics. Invented in 1907, the heat-resistant, nonflammable, moldable and strong material played a vital role in the distribution of electricity and development of the automotive and radio industries, among others. Today plastic is ubiquitous, or as one person observes in All Things Bakelite, “Without plastics, you’d have an alternate universe.”
And while the names of the men who invented electricity, the telephone, the automotive assembly line and rubber tires are well known, few outside the chemistry field can name the father of the plastics industry, Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863–1944). But Hugh Karraker of Redding, executive producer of All Things Bakelite and Baekeland’s great-grandson, hopes that the film about the innovator helps change that, noting, “Just as plastic touches everyone’s lives, All Things Bakelite will have relevance to many people in many differing disciplines.”