They are visionaries … pioneers … renegades.
They are scientists … artists … innovators.
Through glass, they see possibility and create a new reality.
Through glass, they transform lives.
These are just a few of the steadfast inventors who fueled advancements in glass at Corning Incorporated. Their discoveries paved the way for innovative products and entire industries and in some cases, revolutionized our lives. Below are some of our Glass Heroes.
Dr. Lucy M. Maltby
The PYREX® kitchen brand may owe its popularity over the past 100 years to a letter written to Corning in 1929 by a college home economics instructor.
Dr. Lucy Maltby, on Mansfield (Pa.) State Teachers College faculty and a Corning, New York, native, chided the company about PYREX products, saying they weren’t kitchen friendly enough.
She pointed out “that some PYREX pieces came in awkward sizes and shapes“ and encouraged Corning to apply home economics research, along with consumer feedback, to improve the product, according to “The Generations of Corning: The life and times of a global corporation.”
Sales of the cookware were down significantly, and with the Great Depression looming, many U.S. families considered PYREX too expensive. Corning leadership knew that PYREX needed a revamp, and after reading Maltby’s letter, they hired her to manage a new consumer service department.
One look and for Frederick Carder, it was love at first sight. As a young man, Carder spotted a glass replica of the Portland Vase, the most famous piece of Roman cameo glass. After seeing the vase at an artist’s studio, Carder made glass his life’s passion. He was 16.
Carder later described that experience as being “struck with the possibilities of glass.” Those possibilities developed into several technical and artistic discoveries in glassmaking – one of them being the renowned Steuben Glass brand that he co-founded.
“Frederick Carder developed and refined innovative techniques still used today, but also developed a remarkable palette of colors and finishes in glass,” explained Rob Cassetti, senior director, Creative Services and Marketing at the Corning Museum of Glass.
Florence Fenwick worked at Corning as a chemist from 1918 to 1919 when, at the time, the company was called Corning Glass Works. Fenwick went on to be a University Fellow at Michigan University and taught chemistry at the University of Oklahoma. With an eye towards research, Fenwick ended her career as a research chemist for the U.S. Steel Corporation.
Gordon Scott Fulcher
Glass can be a material of many appearances. When molten hot, it can appear gooey. When cooled, it can look frozen. This varying consistency -- or viscosity -- of glass historically had been hard to control, let alone predict, until Dr. Gordon Scott Fulcher’s mathematical discovery.
Fulcher, a legendary Corning scientist, developed a formula that would be later called the "Fulcher equation." First published in a 1925 research paper during Fulcher’s time at Corning, the formula became the industry standard for measuring how temperature impacts different liquid or solid states of glass.
As a result, the glass industry gained a stronger understanding of the material and how to best form and manufacture it.
While a lot of the magic may happen in our labs, here at Corning, we consider the library to be just as magical an environment. Full of history and mystery, our collections encompass centuries of materials on the art, history, and science of glassmaking. And without the guidance and leadership of Catherine Mack, the collection may not have become as extensive as it currently is.
If you have a smartphone, television, or tablet, you might have to thank Clint Shay. Shay, and his colleague Stuart Dockerty, invented a method to produce glass that is astonishingly thin, smooth, and flat. In this method, called the fusion process, molten glass flows downward to form a single sheet of pristine glass. When the process was first invented in 1964, it was used to produce glass for automotive windshields. With the raise of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in the mid-1980s, the fusion process provided the stable and precise glass required by display manufacturers. Today, this process, originally discovered by Shay and his colleague, is still used to create LCDs and ultra-high definition televisions, smartphones, tablets, and other devices.
When the PYREX® cookware brand revamped its efforts to include a consumer service department led by Lucy Maltby, Corning also instituted Home Economics Field representatives to bring the products to the people. Representatives, like Ann Mikell, would travel across the country to educate consumers about the now well-known brand.
Mikell was the Home Economics Field representative for the Dallas District, travelling throughout the South-Central United States with PYREX, CorningWare®, and Centura Tableware product samples. Mikell would meet with large food companies, kitchen equipment firms, and magazine and newspaper food editors, bringing new additions to the product lines and demonstrating the advantages of heat-resistant glass and glass ceramic dishes.
Dr. J. Franklin Hyde
In 1930, Dr. J. Franklin Hyde, an organic chemist, was helping to install PYREX® glass architectural panels at Rockefeller Center in New York City. During the installation, he quickly discovered the that the glass pieces were not adhering to each other or the supporting structure. The challenge was that glass pieces required a special cementing agent. This inspired him to experiment with bounding agents for glass and plastics. He later invented the first resins and compounds for bounding glass and glass fibers which helped lay the groundwork for the Owens Corning Corporation. Hyde also developed a process called the flame hydrolysis. This process was adapted into the vapor deposition process, a manufacturing method that is key to creating optical fiber.
Evelyn Hortense Roberts
Working as a research physicist at Corning from 1917 to 1920, Evelyn Hortense Roberts was an anomaly at the time, working in the scientific field and going to school for a degree in mathematics – a career path not many women took at the time.
At Corning, Roberts tested PYREX® baking ware, performing tests on melting points, conductivity, thermal shock, expansion, and viscosity measurements. She also went on to work with Corning physicist Dr. J.T. Littleton, eventually co-publishing an article on annealing temperatures of glass in the Journal of Optics Society of America in 1920.
Dr. Donald B. Keck, Dr. Peter Schultz & Dr. Robert Maurer
When Donald Keck arrived at Corning in 1968, the telecommunications industry needed an alternative to the existing copper wire used to transfer data across the country. Copper could not sustain transmission across greater distances.
A few years later, Keck was working alone one evening in his laboratory when he made a giant technological leap that catapulted Corning and his fellow researchers — Dr. Robert Maurer and Dr. Peter Schultz — to fiber optic fame. They invented the first low-loss optical fiber that could transmit data in the form of light across significant distances. This discovery transformed the communications industry.
Today, with more than two billion kilometers of optical fiber installed worldwide, this glass invention continues to enable the internet and the world of connectivity in which we live.
Sarah Tyson Rorer
A nutritionist and Ladies Home Journal editor, Rorer performed tests, advised on the shapes and sizes of certain products, educated executives on the needs of housewives, and also gave live product demonstrations in her role at Corning.
William Churchill & George Hollister
Corning scientists William Churchill and George Hollister developed a glass called “Nonex” (short for non-expansion) that could withstand dramatic jolts of heat and cold. In addition, Nonex glass was more durable and visible at greater distances. As a result, railroad accidents dramatically decreased. This innovation not only improved people’s lives; it helped saved people’s lives.
Jesse & Bessie Littleton
In 1913, Corning hired physicist Dr. Jesse Littleton to investigate potential new products that could be made from heat-resistant glass. His wife, Bessie, whose earthenware casserole dish had recently cracked in the oven, asked her husband to bring her a piece of more robust material. He arrived home with the sawed-off bottoms of two glass jars that Bessie used to bake a sponge cake. Since the glass held up wonderfully, she went on to cook steaks and French fries in it.
Based on Bessie’s informal experiments, Corning created an improved glass formula that became Pyrex. The Pyrex line of highly durable cookware became a household name — and an extremely hot product — by the 1920s.
As Corning’s first female Ph.D., Ellen Mochel opened the door for other women PH.D.s starting in 1955. In 1966, Mochel filed a patent for a method of strengthening glass in which glass compositions are improved when using chemical strengthening. Mochel also published two external articles on the same topic of strengthening glass.
Dr. S. Donald Stookey
Stookey’s most famous invention appeared in most American kitchens after an accident in 1952. That’s when the young scientist, researching the properties of glass, heated a glass plate in an oven that malfunctioned. Instead of heating to 1,100 degrees, the oven shot up to 1,600 degrees. Anticipating a molten mess, Stookey was surprised to find an opaque, white plate that was very robust and resistant to shattering. Stookey had just discovered glass ceramics — a breakthrough that led to the development of CorningWare®. This durable, heat-resistant line of cookware is one of Corning’s most successful product lines.
The material used to make CorningWare® was so strong that the military used it in guided missile nose cones and NASA used it for ceramic glass nuts and bolts on the space shuttle.
Stookey earned 60 U.S. patents. His other innovations included photochromic glass for eyeglasses and photosensitive glass that led to color television picture tubes. He received the National Medal of Technology in 1986.