|Birth Day:||November 14, 1863|
|Death Date:||Feb 23, 1944 (age 80)|
As per our current Database, Leo Baekeland died on Feb 23, 1944 (age 80).
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He already had his doctorate degree at 21.
Leo Baekeland was born in Ghent, Belgium, on the 14th of November in 1863, the son of a cobbler, Charles Baekeland, and a house maid, Rosalia Merchie. His siblings were: Elodia Maria Baekeland; Melonia Leonia Baekeland; Edmundus Baekeland; Rachel Helena Baekeland and Delphina Baekeland.
He told The Literary Digest: "The name is a Dutch word meaning 'Land of Beacons.'" He spent much of his early life in Ghent, Belgium. Proudly, he graduated with honours from the Ghent Municipal Technical School and was awarded a scholarship by the City of Ghent to study chemistry at the University of Ghent, which he entered in 1880. He acquired a PhD maxima cum laude at the age of 21. After a brief appointment as Professor of Physics and Chemistry at the Government Higher Normal School in Bruges (1887–1889) he was appointed associate professor of chemistry at Ghent in 1889.
In 1889, Baekeland and his wife Céline took advantage of a travel scholarship to visit universities in England and America. They visited New York City, where he met Professor Charles F. Chandler of Columbia University and Richard Anthony, of the E. and H.T. Anthony photographic company. Professor Chandler was influential in convincing Baekeland to stay in the United States. Baekeland had already invented a process to develop photographic plates using water instead of other chemicals, which he had patented in Belgium in 1887; Anthony saw potential in the young chemist and offered him a job.
Baekeland worked for the Anthony company for two years, and in 1891 set up in business for himself as a consulting chemist. However, a spell of illness and disappearing funds made him rethink his actions and he decided to return to his old interest of producing a photographic paper that would allow enlargements to be printed by artificial light. After two years of intensive effort he perfected the process to produce the paper, which he named "Velox"; it was the first commercially successful photographic paper. At the time the US was suffering a recession and there were no investors or buyers for his proposed new product, so Baekeland became partners with Leonard Jacobi and established the Nepera Chemical Company in Nepera Park, Yonkers, New York.
In 1899, Jacobi, Baekeland, and Albert Hahn, a further associate, sold Nepera to George Eastman of the Eastman Kodak Co. for $750,000. Baekeland earned approximately $215,000 net through the transaction.
One of the requirements of the Nepera sale was, in effect, a non-compete clause: Baekeland agreed not to do research in photography for at least 20 years. He would have to find a new area of research. His first step was to go to Germany in 1900, for a "refresher in electrochemistry" at the Technical Institute at Charlottenburg.
Baekeland continued to explore possible combinations of phenol and formaldehyde, intrigued by the possibility that such materials could be used in molding. By controlling the pressure and temperature applied to phenol and formaldehyde, he produced his dreamed-of hard moldable plastic: Bakelite. Bakelite was made from phenol, then known as carbolic acid, and formaldehyde. The chemical name of Bakelite is polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride. In compression molding, the resin is generally combined with fillers such as wood or asbestos, before pressing it directly into the final shape of the product. Baekeland's process patent for making insoluble products of phenol and formaldehyde was filed in July 1907, and granted on December 7, 1909. In February 1909 Baekeland officially announced his achievement at a meeting of the New York section of the American Chemical Society.
Baekeland received many awards and honors, including the Perkin Medal in 1916 and the Franklin Medal in 1940. In 1978 he was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame at Akron, Ohio.
In 1917 Baekeland became a professor by special appointment at Columbia University. The Smithsonian contains documents from the County of West Chester Court House in White Plains, NY, indicating that he was admitted to U. S. Citizenship on December 16, 1919.
In 1922, after patent litigation favorable to Baekeland, the General Bakelite Co., which he had founded in 1910, along with the Condensite Co. founded by Aylesworth, and the Redmanol Chemical Products Company founded by Lawrence V. Redman, were merged into the Bakelite Corporation.
As Baekeland grew older he became more eccentric, entering fierce battles with his son and presumptive heir over salary and other issues. He sold the General Bakelite Company to Union Carbide in 1939 and, at his son's prompting, he retired. He became a recluse, eating all of his meals from cans and becoming obsessed with developing an immense tropical garden on his winter estate in Coconut Grove, Florida. He died of a stroke in a sanatorium in Beacon, New York, in 1944. Baekeland is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
Baekeland married Céline Swarts (1889-1944) One of their grandsons, Brooks (whose father was George Washington Baekeland) married the model Barbara Daly a.k.a. Barbara Daly Baekeland [] in 1942 and had one child, a boy named Anthony "Tony" Baekeland.
At Baekeland's death in 1944, the world production of Bakelite was ca. 175,000 tons, and it was used in over 15,000 different products. He held more than 100 patents, including processes for the separation of copper and cadmium, and for the impregnation of wood.
Currently, Leo Baekeland is 158 years, 0 months and 24 days old. Leo Baekeland will celebrate 159th birthday on a Monday 14th of November 2022.
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