Toronto. Leo Baekeland was born in 1863 in the Belgian city of Ghent. As a professor of physics and chemistry, he and his wife visited American universities in 1889 and he joined the photographic firm of E and H T Anthony. Two years later, he resigned and formed his own company. He invented a photographic enlarging paper named Velox which became immensely popular after its sale to Eastman-Kodak in 1889. In 1907 in NYC he invented bakelite, the first synthetic plastic. Bakelite has had a long history since it was first sold (the name bakelite comes from the name of its inventor, Leo Baekeland).
Bakelite is easily moulded, stable, heat resistant and does not conduct electricity. From its invention through most of the last century it proved popular for radio, automobile, electrical, telephone and commercial products. In the mid last century it was used by Leitz to make lens cases, film cases, etc. (the ones shown are mine, taken with an iPod Touch on my desk under an LED lamp). Mid last century it was often used to mould inexpensive camera bodies by Kodak and its competitors. If you touch a telephone, a radio, or a cheap camera from mid last century, chances are you touched bakelite!