If the archeologists doing the digging got it right, we have the ancient Phoenicians to thank for amazing glass bongs and dab rigs in our homes today. All the conditions were right the night a group of them sat around their campfire and discovered that sand, when mixed with soda at a high heat hardened to a beautiful substance unheard of before. Of course other cultures were envious of the discovery and though many of them tried to copy the Phoenicians, none were successful until about 50 years before the birth of Christ.
Archeologists have found proof that the beauty of well-done glass work is eternal. Excavated ruins of the Roman Empire have produced jewelry as beautiful today as the day it was made centuries ago. To the ancients, glass had an almost mythical quality to it. In fact, it must have been quite the status symbol back then because the only examples ever found came from the burial sites of aristocrats and royalty. Highborn ancients may have used the new craft to decorate their bodies but eventually, as glass blowing became more widespread, the rest of mankind began to find other, more practical uses for this wondrous substance.
The first magnifying glasses were invented around 2500 BC by Democritus, a man now thought of as the patriarch of modern science. Chemistry and alchemy especially benefitted by the use of glass tools for their trade, enabling science to take bigger steps forward. A good example is microbiology. As early as the 17th century, a Professor Leeuwenhoek discovered how to fashion the very first microscope lens and microbiology, a brand new science, was born. Now researchers could actually see what had always been hidden before, bacteria…all thanks to a group of men sitting around a campfire thousands of years before being smart enough to notice what the heat was doing to the sand.
Medicine has probably benefitted most from glass. Can you imagine a modern medical lab without it? 1934 was a good year for the future of medicine. That was the year Charles Lindbergh and Alexis Carrel designed the perfusion pump. Made from glass, this piece of medical equipment had huge ripple effects on research possibilities. By enabling human organs to stay viable once removed from the body, whole new fields of research opened up and advancements made in treatments of illness that wouldn’t have been possible without glass.