The History of the Glass Window
The History of the Glass Window goes all the way back to sometime between the 1st and 4th century AD. The art of “glass blowing” was invented around the 1st century BC and that enable the glass industry to thrive, then recede, then thrive, then recede again before the very late 1600s when “cast glass” began to allow glass to be made in larger sizes. Previously, windows had to be made of many small pieces and shapes of glass. Cathedral stained glass windows are an example of that.
Just a quick timeline: Man made glass first appeared in Mesopotamia, possibly ancient Egypt some time around 3500BC. While, naturally occurring glass (obsidian) may have been used for knives, arrowheads and even money about 1500 years before that. However, until glass blowing was invented around the 1st century, glass existed in very small sizes and was not very clear.
The art of blowing glass in larger sizes in the late 1600s enabled one single piece of glass to cover an entire opening in a wall. This was of course for the rich only and was not really commercially available until after “float glass” was patented in 1848 by Henry Bessemer in England. Float glass was made by pouring glass on to liquid tin. By 1960 float glass windows were finally mass produced. Windows today are made up of float glass.
What Is Glass?
In order to understand the history of glass windows we need to understand what glass is. Glass is made by combining sand, soda, lime and other materials from time to time by heating, then cooling. The most important aspects of glass are production methods. Once the discoveries were made over the centuries that allowed glass to be made in larger sizes and to mass produce it, glass finally became available to everyone. It was the refinements over time that made glass such an ordinary item today. The processes that made glass large enough to cover an opening in a wall, or to be an actual wall are the real hero in this story. Rolling glass on large, clear smooth sheets was developed in 1847 to make very large windows. Basically pouring hot glass onto rollers and allowing them to be pressed by their own weight resulted in uniform thicknesses and transparency. Bessemer found that this was further enhanced by pouring the glass onto hot tin. All these gains in the 1800s and 1900s regarding mass production are directly responsible for modern glass windows and even walls.
Glass Windows Today
Again, all the improvements made by men like Bessemer have allowed the use of glass as architectural components in our world today. We now have glass that's used as insulation, not just to see in and out of. Yes, glass is now part of a building's structure not just an aesthetic. Tempered glass is recommended in solar panel construction because it's very strong, and that will add immensely to the longevity of your solar panels. Few realize that's an important fact you need to know when buying solar panels. Glass has truly integrated itself into our cultures and has made them better for it.