Gordon M. Kline
Contributed to the science and technology of plastics through research and publications while Chief of the Plastics Section (1935-51) and Polymers Division (1951-63) at National Bureau of Standards. Technical editor of Modern Plastics, beginning in 1936. Pioneer in the organization of national (ASTM, SPI) and international (ISO, IUPAC) committees for the development of standards for plastics. Advisor to government agencies on uses of plastics in aeronautics, construction, and military applications.
The projected 10-fold growth of plastics production from 10 million metric tons in 1972 to a "most probable" 103 million metric tons in 2000 (Standard Research Institute report) seems staggering until one considers that the comparable growth during the past 28 years was 25-fold. The growth in terms of gross national product is even more significant: from 1.9 to 7.2% of our GNP. The expanding markets for plastics that will be involved in this industrial revolution are intimately associated with the social and technological problems confronting the world. The depletion of mineral resources and the need for conservation of energy resources will inevitably lead to the increasing use of plastics in place of the higher energy- consuming materials, metals and glass. Food cultivation and packaging, water purification and transport, and factory fabrication of housing units are areas in which plastics will assist in solving problems resulting from the burgeoning world population.
Oceanographic explorations, marine horticulture, and the widespread use of nuclear power plants and propulsion units will open up new markets for plastics. The impact of computer systems engineering will herald a new era in plastics processing in which automation of materials handling, molding operations, and finishing procedures will provide for keener competition with other materials and more effective quality control. The computer also will assume a major role in polymer science research by selection of optimum macromolecular compositions and configurations for desired properties.
Development of standards will show a growth commensurate with the major role to be attained by plastics in the national economy. The proportion of the Annual Book of ASTM Standards devoted to plastics should expand from the present two volumes (7%) to a percentage comparable to that now devoted to metals (8 volumes, 25%). Many of these new standards will be prepared by committees split off from the original ASTM D-20 Committee on Plastics (1937) to work on standards for consumer products and materials for structural and engineering applications in the food, water, building, and chemical industries. The changeover to the metric system of measurement will enhance the role of the U.S. as a prime source of innovative ISO international standards for use in world trade to keep abreast of technical advances in plastics.
Thirty years ago the plastics industry was facing up to the problems of a World War situation. To quote from my opening statement in the 1944 Modern Plastics Encyclopedia:
"War has always been a grim business, endurable, to free peoples only when every other instrument for maintaining liberty and justice has been exhausted. The total war of today is a scourge which compels the complete conversion of materials and talents normally utilized in constructive pursuits in commerce and industry into a vast machine of destruction. The plastics industry has not escaped from these demands of total war. On the contrary, plastics have assumed jobs in this national emergency which stand in amazing contrast to their former peacetime roles. The versatility and potentialities of these synthetic materials have become even more evident in these wartime applications. The word 'plastics' has become a symbol of the better things and living to come in the postwar world of tomorrow."
The promise in plastics for the future expressed in these words has been amply demonstrated during the subsequent years. It is a measure of assurance that the plastics industry in the year 2000 will again be able to recount its major contributions to the improvement of the standard of living for the world's population and to the solution of critical ecological problems.