first truly synthetic polymer, Bakelite, was discovered in the USA
in 1909 and was safer and tougher than any previously discovered
chemically modified variants of natural polymers. Bakelite was made
from phenol and formaldehyde and had suitable properties to make
it an ideal plastic for electrical appliances. However this plastic
had room for improvement which lead to the start of discovering
and producing many more synthetic plastics in the years between
the two World Wars. This was the time when Hermann Staudinger, a
German chemist, finally explained the chemical nature of polymers.
His theory was that polymers were built from smaller units that
had joined together to form long chains. He was to be proved right.
the end of the 1930s many purely synthetic polymers were in commercial
production. One of which was Nylon; discovered by the chemist Wallace
Corothers in 1935 and was used to make stockings and went on sale
in New York in 1939 as a luxurious novelty.
was PVC, first produced commercially in the USA in 1933 and had
an important use as cable insulation during the second World War.
It then became used for many more applications soon after.
the end of the war in 1945, the chemicals industry that was producing
these plastics found a public eager to buy products made from them
and within a few years they became part of every day living and
their names entered the language.