It is often thought that people are either artistic or scientific. Yet for American artist Patricia Billings her passion for art prompted her scientific innovation. Patricia’s specialty was plaster of Paris sculptures.
Her detour from art into innovation came in the late 1970s, when a sculpture she had been working on for months fell and shattered. Patricia knew that Michelangelo and other Renaissance sculptors has used a cement additive to give their plaster longevity. She set out to create a modern equivalent.
The resulting product took eight years to make and became a non-toxic, heat resistant and durable material known as Geobond. The product became the first real safe alternative to Asbestos. Once marketed as a “magic mineral”, Asbestos is now an infamous public health menace. By the 1980s and 1990s, asbestos trade and use were heavily restricted or banned outright. In 2015 alone 2,542 people died from mesothelioma, a form of cancer that takes many years to develop following the inhalation of asbestos.
By creating an alternative to asbestos, albeit for a different reason, Patricia has helped improve the safety of millions of people globally – and better protect her own artistic creations in the future.
"I want to be remembered as the person who made a safe home for everybody. At my age, that's more important than money... maybe."
— PATRICIA BILLINGS