Dating back to the start of the company in 1851, Corning’s founding family, the Houghtons, saw research and development as a way to stand out in a landscape thick with rival glass makers.
Corning, the Houghtons decided, would distinguish itself from the competition with a deep knowledge of the makeup, chemistry and physics of glass—a malleable, miraculous material that inventors, innovators, and a wide range of businesses have used to help transform our lives.
In 1879, a 32-year-old inventor named Thomas Edison approached Corning with his idea for the lightbulb. He needed just the right glass to encase the delicate filaments that comprised the lightbulb; glass that was stronger and more damage-resistant than glass typically used in windows and jars. By 1880, Edison had designated Corning as his sole supplier of the glass bulbs he needed to bring light to the wider world.
Corning also helped make early train travel safer after the railroad industry sought the company’s help in developing a more reliable signal glass. In the early 1900s, Corning scientists William Churchill and George Hollister developed Nonex (or CNX), short for Corning nonexpansion glass. The glass, able to withstand dramatic temperature changes, was used in railroad signal lanterns. Churchill would go on to work with the Railroad Signal Association (RSA) to develop a set of ideal colors that would later become the RSA national standard.