Volume 50, Issue 2 - February 2015


Time For The Truth

by Lyle R. Hill

As a child of the sixties, I was taught not to trust or believe anyone—particularly politicians, car salesmen, and manufacturers’ representatives. To this very day, my skepticism forces me to doubt almost everything I hear and even a great deal of what I see. Unfortunately, this cannot be helped. It would be much easier to be one of those trusting, optimistic, happy-go-lucky people who don’t have a care in the world. But this is not my plight. In fact, my condition has actually worsened with age. So it was this skepticism combined with an innate sense of curiosity that ultimately led me to question the commonly accepted theories pertaining to the discovery of glass. As a seeker of truth and a lifelong participant in the glass and glazing industry, I became driven by the need to know the answer to the age-old question of who it was that first discovered glass and developed a process for its everyday usage. I personally can’t think of a product that is more important to mankind than glass. I know, some might say the greatest development of all time was the wheel. Others would say it is the cell phone or perhaps unitized curtainwall, but I know better.

The accepted historical accounts of the discovery of glass did not make sense to me. And, somewhere way down in my Irish heart, I knew they were wrong. Thus, I began my quest for the truth. And while the truth may or may not set you free, it’s usually worth a buck or two to somebody, so I naturally assumed my quest would ultimately prove worthwhile. And after a great deal of effort, expense and any number of setbacks, I did discover the truth, and right here, right now I am going to share the truth with you … because that’s the kind of guy I am. And yes, you may send me cash if you feel so inclined to help defray the incredible cost of my search. Mail all donations in unmarked envelopes to my home address, please. If you are thinking about sending me anything less than $5 please don’t bother. You obviously need it more than me. Okay, take a deep breath and prepare yourself for what I am about to tell you.

For generations, the most generally accepted theory was that the Syrians discovered glass in the Mesopotamian Valley. Certain Egyptian historians dispute this and have produced quite a bit of impressive evidence to support their claim that they were the first. I spent a great deal of time reviewing this evidence, but finally I had to reject the Egyptians’ arguments. You see, there is no record of any pyramid ever having a window. Had they known about glass, surely any number of pyramids would have had reflective glass skylights and every chariot would have had a shaded windshield—barcoded and everything. You can’t tell me that riding in a chariot behind large horses would not have been a whole lot better with a windshield … had the Egyptians had such a thing. No, the Egyptians were not the first.

I also followed up on other claims, including some from the Chinese which, for a while, looked quite promising. But as I reviewed the facts and researched the matter further still, these also turned out to be false claims, and I had to dismiss the Chinese as I had previously done with many others.

As theories were dispelled one by one, I became even more determined to find the truth, even if it took a lifetime to do so. No stone was left unturned. Every possible lead was investigated, and finally, after years of tireless research (which has left me old before my time), I ultimately came to know the real story, and now is the time to share it.

It was the IRISH who first discovered glass. The basis for this belief is taken from Irish folklore—long known to be the world’s most reliable source of truth! The story, which has been handed down accurately for more than 5,000 years, claims that the O’Plate Brothers, Patrick and Shamus, actually made the discovery while participating in a traditional Irish potato bake on a sandy, windswept beach around 3,000 B.C.

Unfortunately, the boys did not fully appreciate what they had found and failed to capitalize for personal gain on their discovery, leaving it to the English and the Scots to advance various manufacturing technologies. Legend has it that brother Patrick pursued a career in religion, realizing early on that there would always be more money in that than in the glass manufacturing, distribution or installation business. The other brother, Shamus, was last seen heading west in a small wooden vessel in search of new continents and a reliable metal supplier. It is believed that his quest was at least partially successful … he’s credited with having discovered Greenland.

the author
Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. Hill has more than 40 years of experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com. You can read his blog on Wednesdays at lyleblog.usglassmag.com.

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