Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for Invisible Glass: Inventions by Women A-Z


Katharine Burr Blodgett ( 1898-1979)
We have Dr. Katharine Burr Blodgett to thank for the non reflective glass in our eyeglasses, which is really a special coating. The coating has also been called "invisible glass."

I have never worn glasses without this coating, nor did I know it is sometimes called invisible glass. My husband, who has worn glasses his entire life, insisted I wanted a non reflective coating, when it came time to buy my first set of prescription glasses. I've since learned that without this coating, the glass becomes visible when light is reflected off the surface. Have you ever noticed a glare on someone's glasses? They probably do not have the special coating, or as scientists call it, "invisible glass."

Katharine Burr Blodgett (Katie) was a brilliant woman. Born in Schenectady, New York, and completing high school at the age of fifteen (1913), she went on to earn a bachelor's degree, a master's, and eventually a doctorate in physics, becoming the first woman to earn such a degree from Cambridge University. As a young physicist she decided to devote her life to scientific research, and became the first female scientist hired by General Electric. In the 1920s and 1930s it was rare for a woman to enter the science field at an advanced level.

Among other research pursuits, Katie began an independent study of an oily substance that another scientist had recently discovered. Learning how difficult it was to measure the substance precisely, Katie sought a way to measure transparent objects more accurately. It led to the invention of nonreflecting ("invisible") glass in 1938.


Without going into mind-boggling detail, only a physicist would understand, Katie basically coated the glass with a film of transparent liquid soap, forty-four layers thick (one molecule per layer) to make the glass invisible. The reflection from the soap film  neutralized the reflection from the glass itself.

With more research Katie developed a harder coating that could not be wiped off. This is the coating used today to coat eyeglasses,
but there have been many, many other applications. 

Here are some examples:
  • automobile windshields
  • shop windows
  • showcases
  • optical equipment
  • cameras
  • telescopes
  • picture frames
  • submarine periscopes
  • microscopes

Katie received numerous awards for her research, and she is also known for her work on technology during World Wars I and II: 
  • poison gas absorbents
  • de-icing airplane wings
  • improved smokescreens.








Resources:
http://www.famousscientists.org/katharine-burr-blodgett/; http://physics.unl.edu/~fulcrum/resources/women/kblodgett.htm
http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/online-resources/chemistry-in-history/themes/microelectronics-and-nanotechnology/langmuir-blodgett.aspx; http://home.frognet.net/~ejcov/blodgett2.html; Blodhttp://www.enchantedlearning.com/inventors/women.shtmlgett

Copyright 2015 © Sharon Marie Himsl

30 comments:

  1. You have really done your homework on your theme. another excellent post.

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    1. Thank you, it has been a lot of work. But isn't this woman brilliant? She did so much for us and few of us had any idea.

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  2. Invisible glass...now there's a title which catches your attention. I guess, I've just taken it for granted that all glass is non reflective.

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    1. Kind of thought that would catch someone's eye :) Thanks for commenting, David.

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  3. What an amazing and brilliant woman! As a wearer of glasses, I am certainly appreciative!

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  4. Quite interesting. It would be annoying to look through my glasses and actually see the glass. The things we take for granted.

    Bushman
    2015 A to Z Challenge Ambassador
    @jwb81074

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    1. I'm looking at all glass in a different way now. Thanks for commenting, Jeff.

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  5. No there is one invention that makes life so much easy for all of us who wear glasses and use all those other items as well. It is fascinating hearing about all of these brilliant women.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. I've taken so much of this for granted. Appreciate your visits, Natasha :)

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  6. Thank you, Dr. Blodgett, for making me look a little less nerdy in my glasses!

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  7. Thanks to Katie, we can have our picture taken without looking like Orphan Annie with light bouncing off the lens.
    ~Visiting from AtoZ

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    1. Oh...that's good, Wendy. Orphan Annie did have that problem :)

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  8. I didn't know about her, either! I assumed that coating was relatively recent. I always get the coating, not to keep the glare away for others but because I assumed it reduced glare for us, while staring at our computer screens, etc.? Whoever invented the ultra-thin lens is my best friend. Without it, I'd have to have coke-bottle-thick glasses!

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    1. Hi Stephanie. I remember relatives with those coke bottle glasses. They were painful to look at, and probably just as painful to look through. My husband totally relates :)

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  9. I have never been asked if I want the coating or not. Interesting!

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    1. I think it's pretty standard today, but I do remember it being an option (and I was always trying to save a buck in the 90s). Thanks for reading, Paula!

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  10. I am learning so much! This is so great-I was just telling my hubby about the lady yesterday and now today. I never thought about it but it helps so much safety wise too. I am thinking if they had the glare and are driving they could get into an accident

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    1. I hadn't thought about the safety factor, but that's so true. Something else we take for granted. Thanks, Birgit!

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  11. What an interesting and brilliant woman! Like knowing about the airplane deicing. Thanks, and thanks for visiting Notes Along the Way!

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    1. I zeroed in on the deicing of planes, too. Stacked against the maintenance issues some airlines are having today, this is one positive in their favor.
      BTW, the heart you drew at your blog was awesome, Mary :)

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  12. Thanks Sharon for another fascinating post about a wonderful woman. A friend of mine who frames art work won't use non-reflective glass in her framing which does not make me happy - I've given her some pictures to frame in the past and she's used reflective glass. I'll be seeing her tomorrow and will ask her again. (For a moment I read Katharine Blur Bodgett)!

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    1. I wonder why she doesn't use it. It's probably more expensive...but then, it seems she could charge more. I had some framed while living in SE Asia.....same problem. I have to display them just so to avoid reflection. Good luck! And thank you again for your visits, Susan.

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  13. Wow, go physicist Katie! She was a real pioneer in her day. We should all be grateful. Have a good week!

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    1. A different world I think without her invention! Thanks, Lexa!

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  14. Wow, Katharine Burr Blodgett sounds incredible! I can't believe I've never heard of her till today. Now I know why my glasses are awesomely non-reflective!

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    1. Yes, and imagine how life would be without. Good to hear from you, Heather!

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  15. Hi Sharon - what a great lady Katharine was .. how fascinating to read what people decided to work on and then manage to produce a really useful substance ... I'm really lucky I don't need glasses - I do use simple ones for the computer ... but I use non-reflective glass for my pictures ...

    Cheers - so fascinating .. Hilary

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    1. You are so lucky. I can function without if I have to, but life is tons better with. Thanks, Hilary!

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