The Plastics Academy has announced five posthumous inductees to the Plastics Hall of Fame, including the first members who are not U.S. citizens: British materials legend Alexander Parkes and Giulio Natta of Italy, whose work in polypropylene led to making polymer chains with a preconceived pattern.
The academy will present the honor to family members and other representatives at a ceremony Sept. 17 at the National Plastics Center in Leominster, Mass.
Earlier this year, the Leominster-based Plastics Academy announced that U.S. citizenship no longer will be a requirement for the Plastics Hall of Fame. That rule change opened up the induction of Parkes. Many historians believe his material, Parkesine, to be the first man-made plastic.
Posthumous inductees for 2005 are:
In 1862, Parkes displayed Parkesine at the Great International Exposition in London. Patents for the material, a form of cellulose nitrate, were granted between 1855 and 1865, according to the book Plastics History - U.S.A. by J. Harry Dubois. That was years before the 1870 patent of John Wesley Hyatt, the famed American inventor of the material known as Celluloid.
Hyatt was ushered into the Plastics Hall of Fame right away, inducted posthumously in 1974, soon after the hall was created. Hyatt's story - he invented a substitute for ivory in billiard balls to win a $10,000 reward - is part of U.S. plastics industry lore.
Parkes, who died in 1890, is less well-known in the United States. He was nominated by Glenn Beall, a product designer, teacher and plastics history buff.
Many historians say Parkesine was the first man-made plastic. An independent inventor working in Birmingham, England, Parkes was a metallurgist and chemist, although he had no formal training in those fields. His work in rubber compounding gave him the knowledge to develop a plasticizer for cellulose nitrate, according to material supplied by the Plastics Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately, Parkes failed as a businessman. He started the Parkesine Co. in 1866, but the company went out of business just two years later. One cause, historians say, was that Parkes was preoccupied with making his product cheaply, which resulted in quality problems.
Parkes' work provided the path for Hyatt's Celluloid breakthrough. Hyatt's innovations included using heat and pressure to form finished parts. Hyatt founded the Albany Dental Plate Co. - a reference to an early application for dentures - in 1870. In 1872 its name was changed to Celluloid Manufacturing Co. - and the Plastics Age had begun.
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1963, Natta was an expert in the field of polymers used in film, fiber and synthetic rubber. A 1924 graduate of the Polytechnic Institute of Milan, Italy, in chemical engineering, his career in academia led to important early research into polymerization. He began to study the production of synthetic rubber in 1938.
Working at Polytechnic, he was the first to polymerize PP, according to Plastics History - U.S.A. That led to work sponsored by Montecatini that resulted in the development of isotactic PP, first produced by the Italian chemical company on an industrial scale in 1957.
Natta was a pioneer in the field of polymer engineering. He also studied the synthesis of crystalline alternating copolymers and of sterically ordered polymers.
He died in 1979.
Edwin F. Bushman
Bushman, who died in 2003, enjoyed a long career in a variety of fields. He was an early pioneer in acrylic and glass-fiber-reinforced products, and developed large plastics structures such as overhead storage compartments and lighting and vent areas in commercial aircraft.
He obtained six U.S. patents in plastic products, carbon fibers and colored glass fibers.
As a plastics engineer, he worked for Bell & Howell, Motor Products Corp., General American Transportation, Molded Plastics Products and the Lincoln Molded Plastics division of USS Chemicals. He spent 23 years as an independent consultant in California.
Denes B. Hunkar
Hunkar helped bring plastics machinery into the modern age. He earned a reputation as an expert in process controls for injection and blow molding, and as a pioneer of computer-integrated manufacturing.
He started Hunkar Instrument Development Laboratories in Cincinnati in 1962. The company developed prototypes for the heart monitor, the CAT scan and the blood analyzer.
In 1958, Hunkar developed the first electronic parison programmer for extrusion blow molding. He shortened the company name to Hunkar Laboratories in 1970 and focused on plastics technology. His innovations include the first closed-loop process control for injection molding in 1970, the first method for internal surface cooling in blow molding in 1973, and, in 1978, the first microprocessor-based machine control.
He was active in the Society of Plastics Engineers and won several SPE awards.
Hunkar was born in Hungary in 1936. He immigrated to the United States after the Hungarian Revolution. He died in 2004.
Thomas J. Morton Jr.
In 1935, Morton brought an Isoma injection press from Germany to Evansville, Ind. Two years later, he founded Cardinal Corp. Later known as Hoosier Cardinal Corp., Morton's company was one of the first custom injection molders in the United States - and it spawned many other plastics companies in the Evansville area.
Hoosier Cardinal molded an early high-volume plastic application, a shelf stud for Sears' Coldspot refrigerators.
With Jack Bauer, Morton developed the See-Deep process, a method of decorating the back surface of clear molded parts. See-Deep was first used commercially on the 1938 Nash car-horn button.
During World War II, Hoosier Cardinal made inch-thick plastic domes to protect gun turrets on U.S. bombers. After the war, Morton continued to develop the market for decorative plastics technology, founding Benersons Corp., which made assembly machines to automate plastics manufacturing.
Morton bought Fiberfil Inc. in the 1950s, getting Hoosier Cardinal into the reinforced thermoplastics business.
Tickets to the Sept. 17 posthumous induction ceremony, reception and dinner cost $100. For information or to order tickets, contact the Plastics Academy at the National Plastics Center in Leominster. Tel. (978) 537-9529, fax (978) 537-3220.