Dr. Eugene Sullivan came to Corning in 1908, having been persuaded by Arthur and Alanson Houghton to set up and lead Corning’s first research laboratory. The Houghton brothers saw the necessity of having an in-house research facility to ensure the company’s future as an innovator.
As the new head of R&D, Sullivan’s first assignment was to address a railroad industry problem. Extreme temperature changes throughout the year put stress on the glass globes in the railroad signal, often causing to shatter. Sullivan and his assistant, William C. Taylor, developed a “shatterproof” globe for the lanterns from a borosilicate formula they had developed.
In 1913, Corning built a four-story, 5,400 square-foot building designed by Sullivan himself. With the new facility, Corning’s scientists could work and collaborate in one central location, propelling the company’s ability to create new products and processes for the future.
Sullivan led the creation of a physical laboratory to deepen Corning’s understanding of the physical properties and potential of glass.
Under Sullivan’s direction, researchers developed a safer formula called Nonex. This led to one of the most treasured anecdotes in Corning’s history – how Bessie Littleton, wife of physicist Dr. Jessie Littleton, baked a cake in round Nonex jar. The evenly-baked, golden spongecake marked the birth of what would eventually become the Pyrex brand. However, finding a market for the new glass bake and cookware seemed to be a challenge in itself – and once again, Sullivan’s leadership proved invaluable.
Throughout his years at Corning, Sullivan became a strong voice and an invaluable figure in R&D. In 1960, just three miles from downtown Corning, a research facility was built and named in his honor – and today, “Sullivan Park” is synonymous with breakthrough innovation and patient investment in discovery.