02 December 2009

Pyrex glass

The invention: Asuperhard and durable glass product with widespread
uses in industry and home products.
The people behind the invention:
Jesse T. Littleton (1888-1966), the chief physicist of Corning
Glass Works’ research department
Eugene G. Sullivan (1872-1962), the founder of Corning’s
research laboratories
William C. Taylor (1886-1958), an assistant to Sullivan
Cooperating with Science
By the twentieth century, Corning GlassWorks had a reputation
as a corporation that cooperated with the world of science to improve
existing products and develop new ones. In the 1870’s, the
company had hired university scientists to advise on improving the
optical quality of glasses, an early example of today’s common practice
of academics consulting for industry.
When Eugene G. Sullivan established Corning’s research laboratory
in 1908 (the first of its kind devoted to glass research), the task
that he undertook withWilliam C. Taylor was that of making a heatresistant
glass for railroad lantern lenses. The problem was that ordinary
flint glass (the kind in bottles and windows, made by melting
together silica sand, soda, and lime) has a fairly high thermal expansion,
but a poor heat conductivity. The glass thus expands
unevenly when exposed to heat. This condition can cause the glass
to break, sometimes violently. Colored lenses for oil or gas railroad
signal lanterns sometimes shattered if they were heated too much
by the flame that produced the light and were then sprayed by rain
or wet snow. This changed a red “stop” light to a clear “proceed”
signal and caused many accidents or near misses in railroading in
the late nineteenth century.

Propeller-coordinated machine gun

The invention: A mechanism that synchronized machine gun fire
with propeller movement to prevent World War I fighter plane
pilots from shooting off their own propellers during combat.
The people behind the invention:
Anthony Herman Gerard Fokker (1890-1939), a Dutch-born
American entrepreneur, pilot, aircraft designer, and
Roland Garros (1888-1918), a French aviator
Max Immelmann (1890-1916), a German aviator
Raymond Saulnier (1881-1964), a French aircraft designer and
French Innovation
The first true aerial combat ofWorldWar I took place in 1915. Before
then, weapons attached to airplanes were inadequate for any
real combat work. Hand-held weapons and clumsily mounted machine
guns were used by pilots and crew members in attempts to
convert their observation planes into fighters. On April 1, 1915, this
situation changed. From an airfield near Dunkerque, France, a
French airman, Lieutenant Roland Garros, took off in an airplane
equipped with a device that would make his plane the most feared
weapon in the air at that time.
During a visit to Paris, Garros met with Raymond Saulnier, a French
aircraft designer. In April of 1914, Saulnier had applied for a patent on
a device that mechanically linked the trigger of a machine