Stanley D. Stookey, a scientist with Corning Glass Works, accidentally discovered a remarkably strong material while experimenting with photosensitive glass. Instead of heating the glass at the desired 600 degrees, the temperature gauge ended up stuck at 900 degrees.
“I thought I had ruined the furnace,” Stookey said in a New York Times article. When he rushed to remove the material, “the glass slipped out of the tongs and fell to the floor. The thing bounced and didn’t break. It sounded like steel hitting the floor.“ The material eventually became a household name—CorningWare—that had a wide range of uses, from the nose cone of a missile to dishes that could hold a casserole in both a refrigerator and hot oven.
Stookey invented a number of synthetic glass ceramics, a highly versatile range of materials that continue to be used for new uses. Stookey’s invention of pyroceramic glass was the basis for iPhone screens. He also developed photosensitive glass and glass used in eyeglasses that darken in response to light, which continue to be popularly known as transition lenses.
By Jen Santisi