The Glass of Science and Medicine

The Glass of Science and Medicine

Funnel - CD94-402-067 Large free-blown glass funnel, 19th Century, possibly made in England
CMC 979.91.4

Glass has played a remarkable role in the world of hospitals and laboratories. From test tubes and thermometers to specially blown instruments, radio tubes, and even human eyes, glass is universal.

Mortar and pestle, gift of Jacques Serray, St. Augustin, Quebec
CMC 997.9.5.1
Mortar and Pestle - CD97-480-082

Glass negative plates were used before the invention of photographic film. Valuable in the laboratory because it will not react with most chemicals, glass is still the best material for storing museum specimens preserved in liquids. It is easy to clean and keep sterilized since neither air, liquids, nor bacteria can pass through it. Special optical glass provides the raw material for eyeglass, binocular, and microscope lenses. One Canadian company even manufactured glass burial caskets in the 1880s! And glass is the only material that can be made to focus light, magnify, and form images.

PA-117581 A worker examines unprocessed optical glass, Instrument Division, Canadian Arsenals Ltd., Toronto, 1942

With new formulas being developed and used in the space, communications, and building industries, glass retains its importance in the modern scientific world. In fibre optics communication systems, for example, light signals are sent through tiny rods of fine glass.

George Ensel, glass-blower, makes scientific equipment in the Metallurgy Research labs at the Bureau of Mines, Ottawa, 1941.


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