Firsts in Polymers – Series 1

This blog post is a s start to the series mentioning the firsts in polymers. In this blog post we will look into following firsts:

  1. First published literature
  2. First patent
  3. First book
  4. First research paper


The first known literature that references polymers dates back to ancient times. However, the understanding and study of polymers as we know them today developed much later.

In terms of scientific literature, the first notable work on polymers is often attributed to the French scientist René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur. In 1712, Réaumur published a paper titled “Observations sur la façon dont la chaleur durcit les substances resineuses et sur plusieurs autres faits nouveaux relatifs à cette matière” (Observations on How Heat Hardens Resinous Substances and Several Other New Facts Regarding This Material). This paper explored the behavior of resins when subjected to heat and described the process of hardening and softening.

French scientist René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur

Another significant contribution to the literature on polymers was made by the German chemist Hermann Staudinger. In the 1920s, Staudinger published a series of papers outlining his revolutionary theory on the structure of macromolecules and the concept of polymers. His work laid the foundation for modern polymer science.

Since then, numerous research papers, books, and scientific literature have been published in the field of polymers, covering various aspects of polymer chemistry, physics, synthesis, characterization, and applications. These publications have contributed to the rapid growth and advancement of polymer science and technology.


The first patent related to polymers is often attributed to the Swedish chemist and engineer, C.G. Fahlberg. In 1870, Fahlberg filed a patent for a process to produce a new synthetic material called “saccharin.” Although saccharin itself is not a polymer, this patent is significant because it marked the beginning of the industrial application of synthetic materials and paved the way for the development of polymer chemistry. Saccharin was widely used as an artificial sweetener and became an important precursor in the synthesis of various polymers. While this patent may not be directly related to the field of polymers, it played a crucial role in the history of synthetic materials and their subsequent advancements.

Swedish chemist and engineer, C.G. Fahlberg


The first book specifically dedicated to the subject of polymers is “High Polymers: A Series of Monographs on the Chemistry, Physics, and Technology of High Polymeric Substances” by Herman F. Mark and Gordon M. Bueche. The book was published in 1940 and is considered a pioneering work in the field of polymer science. It covers various aspects of polymer chemistry, physics, and technology and served as a foundation for further research and development in the field.

Herman F. Mark


The first research paper in the field of polymers is attributed to Hermann Staudinger, a German chemist. In 1920, Staudinger published a groundbreaking paper titled “Über Polymerisation” (On Polymerization) in the journal “Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft” (Reports of the German Chemical Society). In this paper, Staudinger proposed the concept of macromolecules and introduced the idea that polymers are long-chain molecules composed of repeated smaller units, which he called “mers.” This paper laid the foundation for the modern understanding of polymers and marked the beginning of polymer science as a distinct field of study. Staudinger’s work was initially met with skepticism but eventually revolutionized the understanding of polymer chemistry. For his contributions, Staudinger was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1953.

German Chemist Hermann Staudinger





Leave a Reply