Baekeland, Leo H. (& Cie)



Person (Male)

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Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules


  • Connected


Life dates

Laethem Saint Martin, 1863 - Beacon [New York, USA], 1944


1887 * - 1890 / Gand, Maison aux Anguilles, 120
Successor: Guequier [V.] & Van De Poele [G.]
Leo Hendrik, ° 14.11.1863; + 23.2.1944. Research scientist and entrepreneur. Doctor of Natural Sciences in 1884 at the age of 21, Baekeland was an assistant at the University of Ghent from 1885 until 1889, before re-orienting his career definitively from academia to industry. From 1883 he expressed interest in the preparation of photographic emulsions by Van Monckhoven’s process based on the use of silver bromide. Partnership, from December 1887, with Jules Guequier, a colleague at the University of Ghent and son of a person of private means, and the latter’s wife Valérie Gleesener. Construction of a factory in Ghent (Dr. Baekelandt & Cie, chemicals). Patent of 15.10.1887 for “photographic plates capable of being developed in water” [plates impregnated with substances needed for their self-development]. German patent (Kaiserliche Patentschrift Nr. 43521 of 18.10.1887 [idem]). Patent of 15.3.1888 for “a new arrangement for packaging photographic plates”. Patent relating to improvements of 31.5.1888 for “the preparation of dry photographic plates which develop upon immersion in water”. Patent of 15.9.1888 for “developing pastes for photographic plates”. Parallel patents were registered in major foreign jurisdictions - France, Britain and Austro-Hungary as well as Germany. Dr. Backelandt & Cie also registered a trade mark on 4.5.1888 for "photographic plates developable in water", incorporating a standard bearing the figure of a heraldic lion.
The process was generally well received in photographic circles. However, it also had its flaws and "Dr. Baekelandt & Cie" quickly accumulated debts. These financial problems led to tensions between Baekeland and his business partners and may have contributed to Baekeland's decision to chance his luck in the United States rather than remain in Belgium.
In receipt of a travel fellowship to undertake a scientific mission on behalf of the Belgian ministry of education, Baekeland left Belgium for the United States on 10.8.1889. He initially worked as a chemist for the photographic supply house of E. & H.T. Anthony & Company of New York City until November 1890. After Baekeland’s departure for the United States, the factory in Ghent was managed by Jules Guéquier, alone or in collaboration with Georges Van de Poele. Baekeland severed all connection when his limited partnership with Guéquier was dissolved in January 1890. He was not a member of the ABP from 1891 until 1897.
In the second half of 1893 in Nepera Park, Yonkers, New York, Baekeland co-founded and managed the Nepera Chemical Company, which specialised in the manufacture of photographic paper. He invented an improved process of silver chloride emulsion on paper only mildly sensitive to the yellow rays of the spectrum and thus sensitive in the vicinity of any artificial light source - a candle or a gas-lamp (hence the term gaslight paper) - and capable of being developed and fixed at a distance from the light source. This type of high-speed and reliable paper (not dependent on the vagaries of the sun) was named Velox [rapid in Latin]. The Eastman Kodak Company acquired the Nepera Chemical Company in July 1899. Baekeland went on to invent the first synthetic plastic, christened Bakelite (a mixture of phenol and formaldehyde) and patented on 18.2.1907. This, his most commercially successful and widely applicable invention, made Baekeland one of the most prominent chemists of his generation and earned him a place amongst the 100 most influential individuals of the 20th century, according to "Time" magazine in 1999.


1887 * - 1890 / Gand, Maison aux Anguilles, 120


Brussels, 1888; Paris, 1889 (bronze medal).

Genres / subject matter



ANTHEUNIS, Georges. Leo Baekeland. Gent, (1988), 83 pp.
GILLIS, J. “L’oeuvre de Léo Hendrik Baekeland”, Bulletin de la classe des sciences, Académie Royale de Belgique, 5e série, vol. 49, 1963, pp. 1165-1173.
GILLIS, J. Leo Hendrik Baekeland. Verzamelde Oorspronkelijke Documenten (Verhandelingen van de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie, Klasse der Wetenschappen), nr. 81, Brussels, 1965, 139 pp.
MATTHIS A.-R. Léo-H. Baekeland 1863-1944. Professeur, Docteur en Sciences, Chimiste, Inventeur et Grand Industriel, Brussels, 1948, 73 pp.
MERCELIS, Joris. "Learning from Entrepreneurial Failure: Leo Baekeland's Exit from Europe", Journal of Belgian History, vol. 43, 2013, pp. 46-79.
MERCELIS, Joris. "The photographic paper that made Leo Baekeland's reputation: entrepreneurial incentives for not patenting" in Knowledge Management and Intellectual Property: concepts, actors and practices from the past to the present, edited by Graham Dutfield & Stathis Arapostathis. Aldershot & Northampton, MA, 2013, pp. 62-83. Concerns Velox paper.
MERCELIS, Joris. Beyond Bakelite: Leo Baekeland and the Business of Science and Invention. Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press, 2020. In particular, Chapter 2, Social Mobility through Education, pp. 25-52, and Chapter 3, Crossing Boundaries: From European Academia to American Industry, pp. 53-75.
WAUTIER, Kristel & Danny Segers. "Nothing succeeds like success”: Het levensverhaal van Leo Baekeland, de uitvinder van het bakeliet", Heemkundige kring De Oost-Oudburg v.z.w., Yearbook vol. 44, 2007, pp. 125-178.

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Affiliated entity

Association belge de Photographie

Type of affiliation

Member of

Dates of affiliation

1888 - 1900

Description of relationship


Record source



Level of detail

Dates of creation/revision

SFJ revised 7.2.2017.& 17.6.2018 ; MCC revised 25.1.2019; SFJ revised 27.2.2019 & 15.9.2020; SFJ revised 13.2.2023 based on information supplied by M. Demaeght; SFJ revised 26.4.2023




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