Discover Benelux, Issue 67, July 2019

Page 13

Discover Benelux  |  Feature  |  Benelux Inventions

Photo: Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay

2/ Plastic Leo Baekeland, 1909, Belgium As the world’s most used material but also the sea’s biggest polluter, plastic is both our panacea and kryptonite. At the break of the 20th century, laboratories in all corners of the world were on the lookout for a strong, cheap and versatile material which would facilitate our mass production. In the end, it was Leo Baekeland, a chemist from Ghent who lived in New York, who created the first Photo: Wikipedia

synthetic polymer and named it Bakelite. The material gained immense popularity worldwide in the production of rotary-dial telephones and toilet tanks. In the 1940s, other synthetic materials were created, replacing Baekeland’s great invention. Learn more about Bakelite and other industrial innovations at Ghent’s Museum of Industry.

Photo: Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay

3/ Orange carrots Unknown, 17th century, the Netherlands Many nearly-mythical stories go around about the benefits of orange carrots. They would improve your vision in the dark and provide you with a stunning pair of peepers. But why are they orange? When the Dutch explorers discovered the carrot in Iran, they came in a myriad of colours, but not orange. A few years later, the Dutch farmers grew the first orange crop, sweeter than its white, yellow and purple counterparts. In 1648, the Dutch drove the Spanish from their territory, letting the Orange dynasty rule the nation. To propagandise, aristocrats painted their houses tangerine and orange trees popped up in their gardens. For common people, however, the oranges were too expensive. Therefore, they harvested carrots galore to join the orange madness. So, whenever the Netherlands turns orange on King’s Day or during the World Cup, know that it all started four centuries ago with carrot-filled fields. Issue 67  |  July 2019  |  13