Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Passing of a Pioneer - Dr. S. Donald Stookey (1915-2014)

On November 4th, 2014, in Rochester New York, Dr. S. Donald Stookey passed away, at the age of 99.   This is a sad day for those who collect one of his greatest inventions...  Corning Ware.

Most collectors know the story of the "creation of Corning Ware", but I shall tell it again, for it is the story of a pioneer, the story of invention and innovation, the story of a legacy that would span 60 patents and result in his being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010.
Dr. Stookey was born the oldest of 4 children, on May 23, 1915 in Hay Springs, Nebraska. Stanley Stookey, his father, was a teacher and bank clerk, while is mother, Hermie Stookey, was a teacher and housewife.  When he was about 6 years old the family moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  It was here that he would eventually graduate Magna Cum Laude from Coe College.  Stookey continued his education and earned his Master’s degree from Lafayette College in 1938 and then his Doctorate in Physical Chemistry from MIT in 1940.

That same year, Stookey joined the R&D staff at Corning Glass Works in Corning, New York.  Glass Chemistry was a fairly "new" science at the time, but it wasn't long before his first innovation in glass - FotoForm (which is still used in computer manufacturing and communications technologies)  It was in 1953, while working with this particular glass that can be photochemically etched into precise and detailed structures that his next invention took place....

Stookey placed a piece of FotoForm glass in the furnace with the intent of heating it to 600C, then walked away.  When he returned, he realized the gauge was stuck at 900C.  Worried that he may have damaged the furnace, he immediately attempted to remove the, now milky white, piece of glass.  It slipped from the tongs.  Instead of shattering into millions of shards, it bounced and sounded like the ringing of steel when it hit the floor.

This new form of crystalline (ceramic) glass was originally dubbed as FotoCeram...  It was amazingly strong and durable, had a low thermal expansion and was invisible to radar.  All this led to its use in guided missiles. However, FotoCeram was destined for even bigger and better things...    Renamed "Pyroceram" by 1957, this wonder glass made it's way into kitchens across the United States as out beloved Corning Ware. 

While collectors of this cookware phenomenon, like myself, applaud his invention every single time we head to the stove to cook a meal, Stookey's innovations didn't stop there.

He is also responsible for the eye-glass lenses that I currently wear.  For Stookey, working with William Armistead, pioneered FotoChromic glass.  Every time I walk outside in the sun and the lenses in my glasses darken, I thank Dr. Stookey (and Armistead).   It's a twist on this sun darkening glass that is responsible for the glass panes of the United Nations Secretariat Building.  They were made of a special Opal Photo-Sensitive formulation so that during the day, the windows match the marble facade of the building... 



He was also responsible for transparent ceramic glass, patented in 1966, which would surface as Visions Cookware in the 1980s. Did you know that Ceramic Glass nuts and bolts were even used by NASA on the Space Shuttle?  All of Stooky's research has led Corning Glass Works to other products such as the Gorilla Glass that is currently used in iPhones and LCD screens. 

Stookey eventually retired from Corning Glass Works in 1987, but would often visit the R & D department. 

In 2010, Stookey was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. 

Stookey was a true pioneer in the science of glass chemistry and has been one of the biggest contributors to the technological world we live in today... His innovations have been far reaching and we will continue to benefit from his advances in glass for decades to come.

Thanks you Dr. Stookey.  May you rest in peace, knowing you made the world a better place.

Where is your CorningWare, iPhone/Smart Phone, LCD TV, Visions Cookware, Computer, Prescription eye Glasses, Radiant Cooktop, Headphones, Ink Jet Printer, Dental Implants, Bone Replacements, Fire Place Screen. etc.??

1 comment:

  1. The world is a better place for his having lived on it, and that is the best thing that can be said about any person. We should all strive to be worthy of those words. Think what a better place the world would be!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.