George Stimpson

His life and works

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Who invented glass?

When, where and by whom glass was first made is not known. Legend says the Phoenicians accidentally discovered glass when they placed cooking pots on blocks of natron (subcarbonate of soda) and found a crude form of glass produced by the union of alkali and the sand on the seashore. Although this was not true glass, some such experience may have prompted the earliest experiments that resulted in early man's conversion of sand, soda, potash and lime into the amazing substance known as glass. A piece of glass in the British Museum is supposed to have been made at least 5,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found glass beads in Egyptian graves believed to date back to 4000 B.C. Glassmaking reached a high degree of perfection in the early days of the Roman Empire. Emperor Nero paid the equivalent of three million dollars for a vessel of rare glass. Window glass was found in [page 48] the ruins of Pompeii; apparently glass was first used in windows about the beginning of the Christian Era. Pliny says that in his day glass was made from the fine sand found in Syria and Palestine. Glass windows may have been introduced into England by the Romans. Such windows were rare until about the eighth century and not common until the fourteenth or fifteenth century. Several glassmakers migrated to Virginia in 1608 and set up a crude glass furnace near Jamestown. This first American glassworks, however, was completely destroyed by the Indians in the massacre of 1682. A few years later another glass factory was established near Jamestown and began to make glass for windows, bottles and beads for the Indian trade. The American Indians, of course, had not learned how to make glass.