All About Glass

All About Glass

This is your resource for exploring various topics in glass: delve deeper  with this collection of articles, multimedia, and virtual books all about glass. Content is frequently added to the area, so check back for new items. If you have a topic you'd like to see covered, send us your suggestion. If you have a specific question, Ask a Librarian at our Rakow Research Library.

Countless Variations: Lens Combinations
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The world began to realize that so far it had only toyed with glass. Now a brand new material was born.     -Walter Kioulehn, Odyssey of the 41 Glassmakers, 1959 By the mid-1800s, there were still only two kinds of optical glass: soda-lime crown glass and lead-containing flint glass. Opticians

Continuous Perfection: Optical-Quality Glass
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They make glass. By day and night, the fires burn on … and bid the sand let in the light.     -Carl Sandburg, In Reckless Ecstasy, 1904. To see the unseeable: the quest is unending. But lenses and prisms are only as good as their glass. Optical-quality glass must be flawless. Even tiny flecks,

On a Thread of Glass: Optical Fibers for Communication
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I have heard a ray of the sun laugh and cough and sing!    -Alexander Graham Bell It was a bright idea: use sunlight to transmit the human voice. In 1880, American innovator Alexander Graham Bell tried it, using a thin, flexible mirror to reflect a light beam onto a distant receiver. His voice

Getting the Whole Picture: Bundled Glass Fibers
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Glass rods could transmit light, but could they transmit an image? A professor at a French agricultural college found himself faced with that question in the 1890s while he was tinkering with an early version of television. Henri C. Saint-Rene needed to find a way to transmit an image onto his

With a Burst of Energy: Glass That Amplifies Light
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It was an idea that might have remained buried in scientific journals. Instead, it led to a device that gave modern telecommunications a much-needed boost. In the 1960s, Elias Snitzer, a physicist at American Optical, added rare earth elements to glass. These elements can absorb light energy—and,

A Break with Tradition: Fused Silica
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After you see something work, then you realize that it’s not so complicated after all.      – J. Franklin Hyde It’s exquisitely pure and remarkably transparent. It expands and contracts very little with changes in temperature. It is the simplest of all glasses, yet for years it was nearly

The Quest to See More: Glass Lenses
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Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins.    – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, 1862 A glass lens. It’s nothing more than a curved piece of glass. So simple. So familiar. It’s changed the way we perceive the world. In 1608, when Dutch spectacle maker Hans Lippershey held up two lenses, one

Lighting the Way: Fresnel Lens
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The most dangerous part of a sailing trip used to be returning to shore. Lighthouses were built to signal the safest route, but often the weak light from their lamps was not visible until too late. The large, thick lens that was supposed to project the light absorbed much of the signal.  Hollowing

Reflections on Glass: Telescope Mirrors
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I contrived heretofore, a perspective by Reflexion.       —Sir Isaac Newton, c. 1668 The refracting telescope gave astronomers their first real glimpse of the heavens. Then, it began to frustrate them. At higher magnifications, the instrument’s glass lenses produced distorted images. Pioneering