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Anthony N. Stranges and Richard C. Jones

Baekeland, Leo Hendrik (14 November 1863–23 February 1944), chemist and inventor, was born in St. Martens-Latem, near Ghent, Belgium, the son of Karel Baekeland, a cobbler, and Rosalia Merchie, a housemaid. A government scholarship enabled Baekeland to enter the University of Ghent, where he studied chemistry in the School of Exact Sciences. He received a B.S. in 1882 and a D.Sc. in organic chemistry in 1884, passing the examination with highest honors. The following year he became an assistant to Theodore Swarts, a professor of chemistry at Ghent. In 1887 Baekeland won a traveling scholarship in an academic competition sponsored by the Universities of Ghent, Liege, Brussels, and Louvain. He postponed travel and instead continued as an assistant professor and then as associate professor from 1888 to 1889 at Ghent and at the nearby Higher Normal School at Bruges from 1885 to 1887. In 1889 he married Swarts’s daughter, Céline, an artist; they had two children. The couple used Baekeland’s scholarship for travel to France, Britain, and the United States that year....

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Davis, Francis Breese, Jr. (16 September 1883–22 December 1962), business executive, was born in Fort Edward, New York, the son of Francis Breese Davis and Ella Underwood, farmers. He graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School, Yale, in 1906 and in 1913 married Jean Reybold; the couple had one child....

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Dreyfus, Camille Edouard (11 November 1878–27 September 1956), industrial chemist and entrepreneur, was born in Basel, Switzerland, the son of Abraham Dreyfus, a banker, and Henrietta Wahl. Camille and his younger brother, Henri (later Americanized to Henry), both received their education at the University of Basel, being awarded their Ph.D.s in chemistry in 1902 and 1905, respectively. Camille also pursued postgraduate study at the Sorbonne in Paris until 1906. After working several years in Basel to gain industrial experience, Camille and his brother established a chemical laboratory in their home town. Seeking a product that the public would readily buy, they developed a synthetic indigo. Although they made some money in this venture, it quickly became clear that synthetic indigo did not have a sufficient market. Consequently the Dreyfus brothers focused their attention on celluloid, which at that time was produced only in a flammable form. They recognized that a large potential market existed for nonflammable celluloid, if it could be developed. They focused on cellulose acetate and were shortly producing one to two tons per day. Half of their output went to the motion picture industry for film, with the other half going into the production of toilet articles....

Article

du Pont, Henry Belin (23 July 1898–13 April 1970), executive and engineer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Henry Belin du Pont, a businessman, and Eleuthera du Pont Bradford, an executive. He earned a B.A. in history from Yale University in 1920 and a B.S. in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1923....

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du Pont, Lammot (12 October 1880–24 July 1952), industrialist, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Lammot du Pont, general manager of the company that was the family’s namesake, and Mary Belin. He was the great-grandson of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, who in 1800 emigrated from France to the United States, where he established a black powder factory along the Brandywine River a few miles north of Wilmington, Delaware. Following his father’s death in a nitroglycerine explosion in 1884, the younger Lammot was raised by his older brothers, ...

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Ellis, Carleton (20 September 1876–13 January 1941), chemist and inventor, was born in Keene, New Hampshire, the son of Marcus Ellis, a merchant, and Catherine Goodnow. Ellis received a camera from his father for his eleventh birthday and became an amateur photographer. Obsessed with the chemistry of photography, he pursued experiments in a home laboratory to the dismay of his parents, who considered this a wasteful extravagance. In 1896 he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a B.S. in chemistry in 1900 and serving as an instructor in chemistry until 1902. In 1901 he married Birdella May Wood of Dayton, Ohio; they had four children....

Article

Hyatt, John Wesley (28 November 1837–10 May 1920), inventor, was born in Starkey, New York, the son of John Wesley Hyatt, a blacksmith, and Anne Gleason. His education in ordinary schools was supplemented by one year at the Eddystone Seminary. At the age of sixteen Hyatt moved to Illinois, where he took up his first trade as a printer. It was perhaps in this work that he could begin to display some of his considerable abilities as a mechanic....

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Tupper, Earl Silas (28 July 1907–03 October 1983), inventor, was born in Berlin, New Hampshire, the son of farmers. Soon after his birth the family moved to a farm in Massachusetts where young Tupper enjoyed buying and selling vegetables. After graduating from high school in 1926, Tupper turned his hobby into a small mail-order business for household items such as combs and toothbrushes. During this time the self-described “ham inventor and Yankee trader” found another area in which to tinker—chemical engineering. Tupper’s self-taught skills led him to Du Pont, where he worked as an engineer during the 1930s. While at Du Pont, Tupper became fascinated by plastic, an interest that continued through the remainder of his life....

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Wyeth, N. C. (24 October 1911–04 July 1990), engineer and inventor, was born Newell Convers Wyeth in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the son of Newell Convers “N. C.” Wyeth, an acclaimed illustrator, and Carolyn Brenneman Bockius. Wyeth’s childhood in Chadds Ford, with extended summer vacations in Port Clyde, Maine, was filled with creativity and exploration. While three of his four siblings were drawn immediately to studying art with their father, Wyeth showed an early interest and ability in engineering. When he was only three or four, his parents observed him rolling his buggy back and forth across the veranda, explaining his greasy hands after what was supposed to be a nap. This prompted his father to change Wyeth’s name from Newell to Nathaniel, after his uncle, an engineer. Such an early disposition for physical manipulation occupied much of his youth. He frequently would dismantle clocks and use their parts to power model speedboats, and he spent a great deal of time fashioning scale models of furniture. One of the most influential lessons taught by Wyeth’s father was the benefits of work done well. During Wyeth’s first attempt at building a scale wooden ladder-backed chair, his father, while supporting his attempt, pointed out in what ways the chair could have been better. This quiet lesson and others like it were not lost on Wyeth, as he knew that the well-planned, carefully completed route to finishing any project would provide the best products. This patience, combined with skill, led him to become a talented and prolific inventor....