Cambridge 2008




Wonders of Glass:
Our Heritage from Earliest Times and into the Future

Malcolm Ingram, University of Aberdeen

The talk is a celebration of how glass has transformed our lives from the earliest times to the present day. This journey through the “ages of glass” will visit briefly the time of the pharaohs, observe the emergence of a successful glass industry in the Roman Empire and its spectacular re-emergence in Mediaeval and Renaissance Europe, before moving on to the modern developments, where the applications of chemical and physical principles are extending the uses of glass into areas such areas as optical communication and energy management, and are opening up new opportunities in medicine – as well as new responsibilities for the storage of nuclear waste.
We appear now to be entering a new era in glass science, where the search is being made for overarching concepts that will enable us understand exactly why glasses behave in the way they do. Where is this knowledge leading us?
So, as we look back on the progress made over the past 3,000 years, we might also take opportunity to look into the future, to see which if any of our current activities could seem impressive in 500 years time. Will future generations be impressed with our growing understanding of the glassy state? Or will they celebrate our successes in building a sustainable environment, where the waste products of our affluent society are either recycled or put safely out harm’s way? We can’t expect to learn the answers to these questions but, nevertheless, it is interesting to speculate.

Malcolm Ingram is currently Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Aberdeen University: his main research interests include ion transport and structural relaxation in glass and for the past nine years he has been Editor of Physics and Chemistry of Glasses.  In recognition of outstanding contribution to glass science he has recently been elected Honorary Fellow of the Society of Glass Technology.


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