A small tortoise-shell cat stars in a new General Electric television commercial, getting most of the credit for founding GE's thermoplastic business. The year is 1953. In the ad, the cat crawls through an open laboratory window, slinks across a lab table occupied by test tubes and pipettes and then, in a reckless leap, knocks a beaker onto the floor. The following morning Dan Fox, a young researcher, finds that the liquid in the beaker has turned into a hard, transparent block. The voice-over says that after years of hard work, Fox turned this serendipitous accident into Lexan, GE Plastics' flagship product, an engineered plastic used in automotive parts, compact discs, and baby bottles. The commercial demonstrates that GE allows its scientists to pursue their own ideas - and, evidently, it gives this freedom to its advertising people as well. The cat was a bit of literary license, explains Jack...

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