Wednesday, October 9, 2013

They say necessity is the mother of invention. I say that sometimes it's just utter frustration with the way things are. In 1913, legend has it that Bessie Littleton's frustration with her bakeware led to the invention of cookware that is still made today.  Yes, I’m talking about Pyrex.

Bessie Littleton’s husband was a Corning physicist in 1913. At the time, the company made a heat resistant glass called Nonex (for nonexpanding glass) to reduce breakage in shock-resistant lantern globes and battery jars.  Often lantern globes shattered when snow hit the warm glass. The company’s product was so good, sales were slow. And that’s where Bessie comes into the picture.

The story goes that when she complained to her husband about one of her casserole dishes cracking in the oven, he brought home two sawed-off bottoms of jars made of Nonex so she could bake in them. The rest, as they say, is history. The glass jars worked so well that in 1915 Corning filed a patent for its borosilicate glass bakeware, and began selling pie plates in 1915. (Several articles I read said that that was why the product was named PY [pie] rex.)

And those of you who are familiar with Pyrex test tubes and beakers might be interested to know that before WW1, scientists used German glass products in the lab. Once the war broke out, the new Pyrex material met their needs for laboratory glassware. 


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