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Inventor Of The Week: Edouard Benedictus

The discovery of shatter proof glass

15 April 2011 - Edouard Benedictus was a French artist and chemist who in 1903 discovered laminated glass. As is the way with most great inventions, his discovery was made quite by accident.

He was on a ladder reaching for something on a high shelf when he knocked a glass flask to the ground. He heard the glass shatter but when he looked down to survey the mess he was shocked to discover the broken pieces of the glass still stuck together, in roughly the same shape as before the fall. Benedictus’ assistant then informed him that the flask had contained a type of liquid plastic that had evaporated and left a thin film on the inside. And shatter proof glass was invented!

At the same time, cars were new to Paris and automobile accidents were a frequent occurrence. The same week he made his discovery, Benedictus had read how automobile accidents were made worse by flying shards of glass from broken windshields. "Suddenly there appeared before my eyes an image of the broken flask. I leapt up, dashed to my laboratory, and concentrated on the practical possibilities of my idea.” For the next 24 hours he experimented with coating glass with liquid plastic, then shattering. "By the following evening, I had produced my first piece of Triplex [safety glass]-full of promise for the future.” 

Henry Ford first starting putting safety glass in his cars in 1919 and by 1929 it came standard on all Ford cars. In the past 100 years Edouard Benedictus’ accidental innovation has saved countless lives.

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