Accidental Inventions: Safety Glass
How one man’s serendipitous discovery has saved many lives.
Edouard Benedictus was born in France in 1878.
He was a chemist and also an accomplished painter of Art Deco images.
One day as he climbed a ladder in his laboratory he knocked over a glass beaker.
When it hit the floor, Edouard was surprised to see that it didn’t shatter into many small pieces but broke into a few, larger ones.
His curiosity piqued he examined the broken beaker more closely; it contained cellulose nitrate (liquid plastic) which had held the fragments of glass together.
An article in the newspaper about the number of drivers being injured by shards of glass in accidents convinced him he was onto something.
However, it took the automotive industry a little longer to take up the idea of his new type of glass.
Interestingly, it was the use of Benedictus’ ‘safety glass’ in WWI gas masks that made the product famous and demonstrated its toughness and durability.
Henry Ford started equipping his cars with safety glass in 1919 and it wasn’t long before it became standard industry fitment.
The chemist’s invention went on to find many more commercial applications and has no doubt saved many lives in the years since it was first introduced.