Marvin Bolt, the Museum’s curator of science and technology, traveled to Europe last fall to research some of the world’s oldest telescopes. Read along to hear about his adventures and discoveries.
Cambridge University was home to Isaac Newton for 35 years (1661-1696). During that time, he famously — and incorrectly — stated that it was impossible to stop refracting telescopes (those with lenses) from introducing colored fringes. So he made a reflecting telescope, one with a mirror to gather light. In fact, he made three of them, but none of them survive.
Newton’s original prism
To carry out his experiments with light, Newton made a triangular prism, which survives in Cambridge University’s Whipple Museum, an impressive collection of scientific instruments, including telescopes. Read more →
When they appeared in the early 1600s, telescopes quickly revealed details of distant worlds, but microscopes provided access to tiny worlds much more slowly. The lenses for microscopes required more precision, and finer skills of the artisans who made them.
In the preface to Micrographia (1665), Robert Hooke (English, 1635-1703) described one microscope lensmaking technique. After reading this preface, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (Dutch, 1632-1723) decided to make his own microscopes and lenses. Of the more than 500 examples he made, only 12 survive, one of which is on display in the exhibition Revealing the Invisible: The History of Glass and the Microscope. Historians, scientists, and glass experts are still trying to understand his techniques, using evidence from his letters, his contemporaries’ descriptions, and by carefully examining his microscopes. Currently, we believe that van Leeuwenhoek experimented with three methods to make these tiny glass lenses.
The exhibit team translated these historical methods in videos that appeal to visitors who are unfamiliar with lensmaking, grinding glass, or flameworking, as well as to scholars who wish to learn more about historical scientific techniques. By recreating these three processes, we are now able to explore them in more detail, and hope to contribute to existing scholarship.
The first, earliest technique used by van Leeuwenhoek copies the method described by Hooke. This approach produces lenses by drawing glass rods into thin filaments, and then poking them with a needle or just letting surface tension act to form a tiny bead. van Leeuwenhoek commented that these lenses were of little value and he soon stopped making them. As a result, none of these examples survive. In the video, expert flameworker Eric Goldschmidt demonstrates this technique.
Alexia Pratt has been a teen volunteer at The Corning Museum of Glass for two years and is a member of the Teen Leadership Council during its inaugural year. She is a sophomore at Corning-Painted Post High School.
Author Alexia Pratt at The Corning Museum of Glass.
You guys have been to The Corning Museum of Glass before, right? Well, now imagine it run by a bunch of teenagers! I’m just kidding, but this past summer, CMOG did give teens a chance to play a larger part in the Museum. The three coordinators — Jessica, Mieke, and Myrna — brought together a really awesome team of Teen Volunteers, Junior Scientists, Explainers, and Junior Curators for a special mission. We called our little team of 14 the Teen Leadership Council, or the TLC for short. Pretty official sounding, right? Our mission: to plan and organize, to learn, and to represent teen voices in the Museum. All that sounds straightforward, but it’s more work than you might think.Read more →
David Owen Brown works worldwide as a producer, videographer, photographer and lecturer specializing in wildlife, environmental and water topics. In 2014-2015, he produced, wrote and directed Fragile Legacy, winner of the Best Short Film category in Monaco’s Blue Ocean Film Festival and humanitarian awards in both the Best Shorts and Global Film Awards competitions. Brown will speak at the Museum’s Annual Seminar on Glass on October 15.
David O. Brown
Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka created their remarkable glass sea creatures at a pivotal time. Leopold was traveling trans-Atlantic under sail in the 1850s. Fossil fuel-powered propulsion was rapidly gaining ground, and steamships were soon to leave sailing vessels in their wake as the primary means of ocean travel. Had he taken his voyage a decade later, Leopold would likely have been aboard a steam ship, not at the mercy of the wind. His ship would not have been becalmed when the wind died, and Leopold would never have experienced the wonder of watching translucent jellyfish and other marine life floating by. Later that same decade, the first oil well struck “black gold” in Pennsylvania, and humanity collectively accelerated onto the technological path that has transformed our world, and fundamentally altered our ocean. Since the Blaschkas’ time, many essential elements of the natural world have been lost in a blur of speed, steel, concrete, and gas. Read more →
The Corning Museum of Glass has named Thaddeus Wolfe, a Brooklyn-based American artist known for colorful, multi-layered, highly-textured mold-blown vessels, as the recipient of the Rakow Commission in 2016.
Thaddeus Wolfe, Image by Joe Kramm, Courtesy of R & Company.
Situated at the nexus between art, design, and craft, Wolfe’s objects are refined explorations of the possibilities and applications of mold-blown glass, a technique with origins in ancient Rome. Employing new materials and aesthetics, Wolfe mines this ancient technique to create objects that appear futuristic and otherworldly.
This morning, The Corning Museum of Glass released its first-ever scholarly electronic resource, The Techniques of Renaissance Venetian Glassworking by artist and scholar, William Gudenrath. A culmination of a lifetime of research, this digital resource details the techniques used to make glass on Murano, Venice’s historic glassmaking island, between about 1500 and 1700, a period known as “the golden age of Venetian glass.” Through 360˚ photography and high-definition video, complete reconstructions of Venetian glassmaking techniques unknown for centuries are now revealed.
Detail of Dragon-Stem Goblet, Venice, Italy, 1630-1670. 51.3.118.
With 2015 drawing to a close, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of our biggest moments of the year in photos. Check out our top 15 Instagram posts of 2015, and remember to follow us @CorningMuseum.