facts about the invention
of Safety Glass by Edouard Benedictus in 1903.
|Today safety glass, which will not
splinter when exposed to shock, is everywhere-in windshields for cars, goggles for
machinists, and windows and doors for many public buildings. Essential as it is, safety
glass was the result of a clumsy mistake. Edouard Benedictus, a French scientist, was
working in his laboratory. The year was 1903. Benedictus climbed a ladder to fetch
reagents from a shelf and inadvertently knocked a glass flask to the floor. He heard the
glass shatter, but when he glanced down, to his astonishment the broken pieces of the
flask still hung together, more or less in their original contour.
|On questioning an assistant,
Benedictus learned that the flask had recently held a solution of cellulose nitrate, a
liquid plastic, which had evaporated, apparently depositing a thin coating of plastic on
the flasks interior. Because the flask appeared cleaned, the assistant, in haste,
had not washed it but returned it directly to the shelf.
As one accident had led Benedictus to the discovery, a series of other accidents
directed him toward its application. In 1903, automobile driving was a new and often
dangerous hobby among Parisians. The very week of Benedictuss laboratory discovery,
a Paris newspaper ran a feature article on the recent rash of automobile accidents. When
Benedictus read that most of the drivers seriously injured had been cut by shattered glass
windshields, he knew that his unique glass could save lives.
As he recorded in his diary: "Suddenly there appeared
before my eyes an image of the broken flask. I leapt up, dashed to my laboratory, and
concentrated on the practical possibilities of my idea.,, For twenty-four hours straight,
he experimented with coating glass with liquid plastic, then shattering it. "By the
following evening," he wrote, "I had produced my first piece of Triplex [safety
glass]-full of promise for the future." Unfortunately, automakers, struggling to keep
down the price of their new luxury products, were uninterested in the costly safety glass
for windshields. The prevalent attitude was that driving safety was largely in the hands
of the driver, not the manufacturer. Safety measures were incorporated into automobile
design to prevent an accident but not to minimize injury if an accident occurred.
It was not until the outbreak of World War I that safety glass found its first
practical, wide-scale application: as the lenses for gas masks. Manufacturers found it
relatively easy and inexpensive to fashion small ovals of laminated safety glass, and the
lenses provided military personnel with a kind of protection that was desperately needed
but had been impossible until that time. After automobile executives examined the proven
performance of the new glass under the extreme conditions of battle, safety glasss
major application became car windshields.
Chemistry History from The Great Idea
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
The Kid Who
Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages (1999)
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident,
from animal crackers to the zipper.
Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items,
expressions and customs.
ON THE WEB:
Sandwich Could Revolutionize Car Windows
Motorists could reap significant benefits from new research. Auto Glass Technology News.
Corning Museum of Glass
Little is known about the first attempts to make glass.
The DuPont Benedictus Awards program is an annual international competition for both
student and professional architects to recognize significant and enterprising
architectural uses of laminated glass.
New Developments in Safety Glass
Article by Scott Memmer. Lot of COOKIES at this site.
HOW IT WORKS:
Article by Louis A. Bloomfield, Professor of Physics, The University of Virginia
Sources in BOLD Type
page revised Jaruary, 2005.
Berners-Lee's invention has revolutionized the world like nothing
The invention of the Internet,
should be classed with the greatest events of the 20th Century.
The Aero Sport All-Terrain Bed
with Dual Power Pump is the perfect addition to any camping trip or weekend
book, is the perfect desktop reference for both the science novice and the
technologically advanced reader alike.
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