A Slow Start for Plastic Bottles
This story takes some explaining. Long ago, before there was
chemistry, there was alchemy. Alchemy was the quest on the part
of investigators who sought to turn lead into gold. Nowadays
we know it would take an atom smasher to pull off this feat.
But long ago, it was believed to be possible by simple means.
What's more is the economies of most cultures until modern times
were based on gold. Now being able to make gold cheaply would
amount to counterfeiting, and would have disastrous effects on
the economy. So the practice of alchemy was often banned by
kings and emperors and such. Knowing how important it was for
the rulers to keep gold valuable, we can read what a monk known only as
Bartholomew the Englishman wrote in his book, On the Properties
of Things. Bartholomew lived in the thirteenth century, and in his
book he tells us about the Roman inventor who made an unbreakable
"But long time past there was one that made glass pliant, which might be ammended and wrought with an hammer, and brought a vial made of such glass before Tiberius the Emperor, and threw it down on the ground, and it was not broken but bent and folded. And he made it right and ammended it with a hammer. Then the Emperor commanded to smite off his head anon, lest his craft were known. For then gold should be no better than fen [clay], and all other metal should be of little worth, for certain if glass vessels were not brittle, they should be accounted of more value than vessels of gold."
Now we can't be sure just what this unfortunate inventor had come
up with, but we can say that Emperor Tiberius was just a bit hasty.
The polymers which are used today for unbreakable bottles, such as
poly(ethylene terephthalate), sell for only pennies
Source: Holmyard, E.J.; Alchemy; Pelican Books, Ltd.; Marmondsworth,