Leo Hendrik Baekeland (Sint-Martens-Latem (near Ghent), November 14, 1863 - February 23, 1944) was a Belgian chemist who invented Velox photographic paper (1893) and Bakelite (1907), an inexpensive, nonflammable, versatile, and popular plastic.
Born in Sint-Martens-Latem near Ghent, Belgium, Baekeland was the son of a cobbler and a maid. He graduated with honors from the Ghent Municipal Technical School and was awarded a scholarship by the City of Ghent to study chemistry at the University of Ghent, where he acquired a PhD summa cum laude at the age of 21. He was subsequently appointed associate professor of chemistry in 1889, and married Céline Swarts, the daughter of his head of department.
In 1889 Baekeland honeymooned in New York, where he met Richard Anthony, of the E. and H.T. Anthony photographic company. Baekeland had already invented a process to develop photographic plates using water instead of chemicals, and was interested in moving to America; Anthony saw potential in the young chemist and offered him a job.