ACS designates plastic used in Hula Hoop® a Historic Chemical Landmark

October 28, 1999

Breakthroughs Revolutionized Everyday Life

Washington, DC-The discovery of polypropylene and the development of a production process for high-density polyethylene, the plastic that made the Hula Hoop® possible, is being designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the world's largest scientific society, the American Chemical Society. The designation will be made Nov. 12 at a ceremony in Bartlesville, Okla., site of the breakthroughs, during National Chemistry Week, Nov. 7-13.

Phillips Petroleum Company chemists J. Paul Hogan and Robert L. Banks discovered polypropylene in 1951 and later developed a new catalytic process for making high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Their inventions revolutionized everyday life.

The first commercially successful use of the new material was in the Hula Hoop®, a large ring of tubing still popular among the children of the Baby Boomers who made the toy a cultural phenomenon when it was introduced in the 1950s. Today, billions of pounds of the high-performance plastic are used each year in packaging of every shape and size, from milk jugs to chemical drums; in toys, tools, furniture, and fibers; in water, sewer, and gas pipes; and as automobile parts.

Ed Wasserman, President of the American Chemical Society, will join officials of Phillips Petroleum in honoring Hogan and Banks by placing a plaque at the site of the laboratory where the chemists did their research.

"The breakthroughs by Hogan and Banks are truly worthy of designation as a national chemical landmark," said Wasserman. "The discovery of crystalline polypropylene and the development of HDPE transformed our daily lives and launched a multibillion-dollar industry that now provides thousands of jobs and business opportunities in America and around the world."

The American Chemical Society designates important steps in the evolution of American chemical science and technology as National Historic Chemical Landmarks. "The landmarks program reminds us of the grandeur of chemistry, while underlining that chemistry is a very human enterprise, filled with all triumphs and setbacks of men and women trying to understand the world and make it better," Wasserman said.
A nonprofit organization with a membership of nearly 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy, and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. (

American Chemical Society

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