Rest in peace S. Donald Stookey:
In 1952, he placed a plate of glass into an oven to heat it, but the oven malfunctioned. Instead of heating to about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, the oven shot up to more than 1,600 degrees. Stookey expected to find a molten mess. Instead, he found an opaque, milky-white plate. As he was removing it from the oven, his tongs slipped, and the plate fell to the floor. But instead of shattering, it bounced.
He had discovered glass ceramics, which Corning patented as Pyroceram. By the end of the 1950s, the work led to CorningWare, one of the company’s most successful product lines.
“He was fearless – the unknown never daunted him,” said David Morse, Corning’s chief technology officer. “He was an unassuming and quiet but tough person,” whose numerous inventions generated big businesses for the company. “Don was recognized throughout the glass technology community as a world-class scientist.”
In a 2011 interview, Stookey said he initially viewed glass research as a way to make money, but he became intrigued by glass’ special characteristics.
“I thought this might be a field where I could find something new, invent things not seen before, and I was lucky to have that be the case,” he said in a video project funded by The History Channel for the Corning Museum of Glass.
I bet few of you even stopped to think of the wonders that such a man has provided for mankind. I bet fewer of you even knew who he was. There are thousands and thousands of people just like Mr. Stookey whose stories remain untold, with similar twists, turns and surprises. But the miracles by which we live today do not appear as gifts beneath our pillows – it requires something to motivate people to go out and invent Corningware, either intentionally or not. Sure, profit is a great morivator, but it is more than that too – it is a deep intellectual curiosity and NOT worrying about “will that be on the test” and it is to be embedded deep into a culture that celebrates men and women like this as worthy of praise and emulation. He died in Rochester, sadly, today.
In other news from Rochester today: