Skip to main content

A brief history of plastic

1,170,835 Views

32,084 Questions Answered

TEDEd Animation

Let’s Begin…

For centuries, billiard balls were made of ivory from elephant tusks. But when excessive hunting caused elephant populations to decline, they began to look for alternatives. John Wesley Hyatt took up the challenge. In five years, he invented a new material called celluloid, which would become known as the first plastic. Trace the history of the material that ushered in the “plastics century.”

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Sharon Colman
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Music Miguel d'Oliveira
  • Sound Designer Miguel d'Oliveira
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • Special Thanks Mahrukh Bashir

More from Inventions that Shape History