How Leo Bakeland saved billiards and elephants.
In the early 1900's Leo Baekeland developed the first fully synthetic artificial plastic as a substitute for ivory in billiard balls. Baekeland's discovery was a phenolic resin which he named "Bakelite". Bakelite was not explosive or flammable, it was easy to work with, and more importantly, its playing characteristics were very similar to ivory. Finally, after many years the billiard industry and the billiard playing public had a substitute that most felt was on a par with ivory. Bakelite became widely used world-wide as an ivory substitute and was advertised as "the material of a thousand uses". Elephants everywhere breathed a sigh of relief. Today 80% of the world's pool balls are manufactured in Belgium by a company named Saluc, their products are sold under the Aramith and Crystalate (snooker) brands.
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