A Fragile Heritage
Aspects of Historic Glass
Cambridge - Wednesday 6th September 2017



John Parker
<j.m.parker@sheffield.ac.uk >

article posted 3 June 2017

John Parker moved to Sheffield from the University of Cambridge in 1971, having completed a first class MA in Natural Sciences, a PhD and a post-doctoral NERC fellowship studying aluminosilicates with incommensurate structures. At Sheffield he has developed interests in both the optical/structural properties of glasses and the technology of bulk glass making, supported by links with local glass manufacturers.

Now Emeritus Professor of Glass Technology, John is actively involved in the International Commission on Glass, and is past-president of both the Society of Glass Technology and the European Society of Glass Science and Technology.

His particular research interests have recently fallen in the area of optical properties of glass, particularly the way dopant ions interact with light. This has led him into areas ranging from fibre optics to glass colour, history and art.

As Curator, John is responsible for the collection of Glass Artefacts held in the Turner Museum at the University of Sheffield. These are mostly works collected during the first half of the 20th Century but there are both newer and older items of significance too.



For good measure: take a glass!
John Parker
University of Sheffield

Over millennia, glass has played a major role in allowing us to make sense of the world around us. In this talk we will examine some of the many uses it has had in metrology ranging from time measurement to medical assessment, from the prediction of changes in weather to determining the coordinates of our position, and from astronomical observation to chemical analysis or the creep of metals.


Such applications typically require a stable material that is transparent but also something that can be accurately shaped. We will consider whether our trust in the stability of the material has been justified and what we have learned when it has not been. We will examine how good we have been at creating particular shapes, from flat surfaces to intricate curves.



Finally we will examine how the term glass has been woven into our language over the centuries as an illustration of the perceived value of the material in its many roles.