Benjamin Franklin, the son of a tallow chandler, achieved extraordinary success as a statesman, printer, scientist and author, becoming the only colonial American to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher. It is no wonder, then, that his Autobiography, the story of a poor boy who employs thrift, drive, and intelligence to rise to great wealth and position, would so deeply influence Leo H. Baekeland, the eight-year-old son of an illiterate Belgian shoemaker. Baekeland not only fell in love with America, he emulated Franklin, achieving great wealth and station and changing the course of our lives—he invented plastic.