Lab Product News

Glass labware celebrates 100th anniversary

Corning, NY – Pyrex glass is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. For over a century, the glass has been at the heart of many groundbreaking discoveries and advancements in medicine, chemistry, space exploration, and other fields.

“Pyrex glass is a great example of Corning’s expertise in materials science and our legacy of translating science into life-changing products that benefit the world,” said Dr. David L. Morse, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Corning.

The same qualities that made the glass ideal for its initial application of cookware – transparency, strength, and chemical resistance – were also qualities that met the demands of laboratory chemists and scientists from its inception. The outbreak of World War I had prevented American scientists from accessing specialty European glass common in laboratories at the time.

The introduction of Pyrex glass in 1915 gave American scientists a replacement that was not only suitable, but superior to the products they had been importing from Europe in terms of chemical stability and heat resistance. Indeed, in 1918, the U.S. Bureau of Standards gave Pyrex glass a higher rating than any other known glass for labware.

The glass has since played a key role in a variety of innovative, historic and life-changing achievements and applications, including:

• The first radio message from the South Pole was transmitted over radio antennas using Pyrex insulators – which helped preserve maximum strength and clarity of radio impulses, critical to safety in the development of air travel and exploration.
• In 1935, the Hale Telescope on Palomar Mountain in California was made from a 200-inch, 20-ton disk of Pyrex glass and was, at the time, the largest glass disk ever manufactured. 
• In 1937, Pyrex glass was made into tiny bottles to store doses of insulin since the glass was less likely to react with its contents.
• Pyrex glass products played an important role in enabling the mass commercialization of penicillin during World War II.
• In the 1950s, Dr. Jonas Salk grew the original cultures for his polio vaccine in Pyrex Fernbach flasks.

To celebrate the anniversary, Corning Life Sciences has developed a website with more about the history of Pyrex labware.