Edwin L. Hobson III
A quantum leap in the growth of the plastics industry took place as a result of two innovations of the 1930’3: the injection molding process, which made it possible to produce plastic parts in a higher output rate than ever before; and polystyrene, the first large-volume commodity thermoplastic. Edwin Hobson, known as “Hobby” during his plastics career of more than six decades, was a leader in adopting both innovations in the U.S.
In 1938 he became the first sales engineer for a thermoplastic resin product line when the Bakelite Company, the original supplier of phenolic resins, diversified into polystyrene. In this position he worked with customers to develop injection molding techniques for polystyrene parts as diverse as combs, costume jewelry, and liquor pouring spouts. This experience led him to write the first technical manual on thermoplastic molding techniques for inclusion in Bakelite’s influential Manual on Molding.
Hobson’s career entered a new phase during World War II when, as a major in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps., he headed the plastics section of the military Planning Division of the office of the Quartermaster General. He received the Legion of Merit Award from the U.S. Secretary of War for “conceiving, developing, and being personally responsible for the vital role played by plastic materials in World War II.”
Hobson’s tours of the plastics industries of Britain and Germany after the war resulted in the transfer of valuable technical information to the industry in the U.S. His findings from Germany, published as German Plastics Practice, contributed to the postwar plastics boom in the United States.
In 1968 Hobson retired from Monsanto Co. and co-founded Aladdin Synergetics Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee to manufacture plastic food-service systems for hospitals and airlines. In the 1980’s he founded another company, Abanaki, to produce components for industrial belts.