oven thermometer

S. Donald Stookey

Stanley Donald Stookey (born May 23, 1915) is an American inventor. He has 60 patents in his name related to glass and ceramics, some solely his while others are jointly with others. His discoveries and inventions have affected considerably the development of ceramics, eyeglasses, sunglasses, cookware, defense systems, and electronics.

He was a research director at Corning Glass Works for 47 years doing R & D in glass and ceramic development. His inventions include Fotoform, CorningWare, Cercor, Pyroceram and Photochromic Ophthalmic glass eyewear.

Early life

Stookey was born on May 23, 1915 in Hay Springs, Nebraska. His father, Stanley Stookey, was a teacher and bank clerk. His mother, Hermie Stookey, was a teacher and housewife. Stookey had three siblings and he was the oldest of the four children. When Stookey was about 6 years old the family moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from Hay Springs.


Stookey went to Coe College from 1934 to 1936 where he graduated with his first degree, a liberal arts degree in chemistry and mathematics. Stookey’s grandfather (Stephen Stookey) was previously a professor of botany and geology at that same college. After graduation from Coe College Stookey then went to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania in 1937. He received a $1000 fellowship to cover living expenses and as a teaching laboratory assistant in the chemistry lab. In 1938 he earned his Master of Science degree in chemistry from Lafayette College. Stookey then went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge where he received a doctorate in chemistry in 1940. The same year he married his wife Ruth.

Stookey took his career job at Corning Glass Works in 1940. He carried out research on glass and ceramics, which led to several inventions. Stookey studied and experimented with opal glass and glass ceramics.

FotoForm glass

One of the earliest innovations of Stookey is FotoForm glass. The scientific community recognized its value around 1948. FotoForm glass is used in computer manufacturing and communications technology. A serendipitous invention made by Stookey in 1953 was when he took a piece of FotoForm glass and mistakenly heated it to 900°C when he meant to heat it to 600°C. When an oven thermometer was stuck on the higher temperature Stookey had accidentally created the first glass-ceramic, Fotoceram. It was later known also as Pyroceram. This was the first glass-ceramic and eventually led to the development of CorningWare in 1957. CorningWare went to the consumer marketplace the next year in 1958 for cookware by Corning Glass Works and became just one of Stookey's multi-million dollar inventions. It influenced the development of VisionWare, which is transparent cookware. VisionWare was patented by Corning Glass Works in 1966.

Pyroceramic glass has the necessary properties to be used by the military for the nose cones of supersonic radar domes in guided missiles applied in defense. It has the special properties of extreme hardness, super strength, resistance to high heat and is transparent to radar waves.

Stookey also developed photochromic glass. Photochromic glass is a glass that is used to make ophthalmic lenses that darken and fade with bright light or lack of. These lenses were first available to consumers in the 1960’s as sunglasses made by Corning Glass Works. It is the joint discovery and development of Stookey with William Armistead. Stookey also invented photosensitive glass using gold in which permanent colored photographs can be produced.


  • 1936 Magna cum laude, Coe College
  • 1937 Master of Science in chemistry, Lafayette College
  • 1940 Ph.D., physical chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1950 First of 60 U.S. Patents Awarded, No. 2.515.937 for photosensitive glass.
  • 1953 John Price Wetherill Award, Franklin Institute
  • 1955 Alumni Award of Merit, Coe College
  • 1960 Ross Coffin Purdy Award, American Ceramic Society
  • 1962 John Price Wetherill Award, Franklin Institute
  • 1963 Honorary doctor of science degree in 1963, Coe College.
  • 1964 Toledo Glass and Ceramic Award
  • 1970 Inventor of the Year, George Washington University
  • 1971 Award for Creative Invention, American Chemical Society
  • 1971 E.C. Sullivan Award, Corning Section, American Ceramic Society
  • 1973 Beverly Myers Achievement Award, Educational Foundation in Ophthalmic Optics
  • 1975 American Phoenix Award of the Glass Industry
  • 1979 Achievement Award, Industrial Research Institute
  • 1982 Samuel Giejsbeek Award, Pacific Coast Sections, ACerS
  • 1984 Distinguished Inventor Award, Central New York Patent Law Association
  • 1984 Honorary doctor of science degree, Alfred University
  • 1985 Published "Journey to the Center of the Crystal Ball", an autobiography
  • 1986 United States Medal of Technology presented by President Ronald Reagan
  • 1989 Distinguished Life Member, American Ceramic Society
  • 1993 Wilhelm Eitel Medallion for Excellence in Silicate Science
  • 1994 National Medal of Technology, White House Council

Organization membership

Stookey has held membership in many professional organizations and societies, including,

  • Sigma Xi
  • National Academy of Engineering
  • British Society of Glass Technology
  • American Institute of Chemists (Fellow)
  • The American Ceramic Society (Distinguished Life and Fellow)
  • A section on the innovations of glass and glass-ceramics at the Corning Museum of Glass with a Stookey video describing his glass-ceramics inventions.

Works and Publications

  • Stookey, S. Donald, ‘’ Journey to the Center of the Crystal Ball : An Autobiography’’, American Ceramic Society (1985), ISBN 0-9160946-9-3
  • Stookey, S. Donald, ‘’ Explorations in Glass: An Autobiography’’, Wiley-Blackwell (2000), ISBN 1-5749812-4-2

Later life

Stookey retired from Corning Glass Works in 1987 after a career of 47 years.

Together he and his wife raised three children named Robert, Margaret and Donald Bruce. They also have six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.



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