Scientist Who Invented CorningWare Glass Dies At 99

Nov 7, 2014
Originally published on November 7, 2014 12:19 pm

Check your kitchen cabinets — there's a good chance a CorningWare casserole dish is inside.

If there isn't, you probably know someone who has one. CorningWare, the popular white cookware often decorated with blue cornflowers, has been a fixture at family gatherings and potluck dinners for decades.

S. Donald Stookey, credited with creating a synthetic ceramic glass in the 1950s that led to CorningWare, died Tuesday at age 99.

The durable cookware is able to withstand extreme temperatures, making it perfect for casseroles. The dishes can go from oven to table and then into the refrigerator or freezer. Later, CorningWare could be used in microwave ovens and cooktops.

Stookey discovered glass ceramics in 1952 — the fortuitous outcome of an experiment gone wrong.

As The Associated Press tells the story, "Stookey was a young scientist researching the properties of glass ... when he put a glass plate 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."

And bounce is exactly what sales of CorningWare did. By the end of the 1950s, it was one of Corning's most successful products.

CorningWare is still on store shelves. Corning spun off its consumer-products division in 1998, and the cookware is now marketed by World Kitchen.

Stookey held the patent on CorningWare. His son, Donald Stookey, told the AP that he believes his father made money on a percentage of the sales — but did not get rich.

In 1986, Stookey received the National Medal of Technology from President Ronald Reagan. And in 2010, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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