swinburne8Let’s give a rousing birthday shout out to everyone’s favorite Scottish chemist: James Swinburne.


Exactly my point. Swinburne might have been everyone’s favorite Scottish chemist had he not been so overly cautious.

Swinburne (born February 28, 1858) was actually an electrical engineer, but he was trying to find a way to insulate electrical wiring. (If you’ve ever touched a wire that wasn’t wrapped in insulation, you know why this was kinda important.) Folks had already played around with mixing phenol and formaldehyde, but Swinburne discovered a way of heating it and shaping it into something useful. We don’t call it “baked phenol and formaldehyde;” it has a simpler name:


the-graduate-plasticsBut Swinburne took his time with doing anything with his invention of plastic, and when he finally got around to taking it to the patent office, someone had beaten him to it—by one day.

Swinburne was the first to invent plastic, but he would not reap the benefits of his discovery.

When God gives you an opportunity, take it. If there is something you can do—something you know you should do—do it. Don’t delay. And if it’s something you know God wants you to do, then get after it.

I don’t know who first said this (but a dozen preachers would like to take credit for it), but it rings true:

Delayed obedience is disobedience.

Maybe that’s what David had in mind when he said, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Ps. 119:60).

Maybe the point I’m driving at speaks to that invention you’ve been working on in your basement. But I’m guessing it more likely speaks to your need to …

  • … call your mother.
  • … invite that friend or co-worker to your Bible study group.
  • … check up on someone and offer encouragement.
  • … apologize.

The opportunity won’t always be there.

Radio in Bakelite plastic
Radio in Bakelite plastic

For those dying to hear the rest of the story …

The guy who beat Swinburne to the patent office started the Bakelite Company. Even though Swinburne missed out on the patent, he joined the Bakelite Company several years later and eventually became the chairman.

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