John H. Thomas

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John H. Thomas

Fiberglass
US Patent Nos. 2,121,802; 2,133,236
Inducted in 2006
Born September 19, 1907 - Died September 17, 1991

Jack Thomas, Dale Kleist, and Games Slayter invented the process for making glass fiber insulation in commercial quantities. Fiberglass insulation is used in buildings, stoves, refrigerators, and furnaces, and fiberglass reinforcements are used to strengthen plastic materials in a variety of products, including cars, boats, and bathroom fixtures.

Thomas was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. Studying at the University of Illinois, he earned his B.S. in 1931. Upon graduating, Thomas was hired by Slayter to research new ways to use glass at Owens-Illinois Glass Company. Thomas hired Kleist, a college student, to work on several projects, including architectural glass blocks.

While Kleist was attempting to spray molten glass for a project, tiny fibers formed. Thomas immediately realized the process could be used in the commercial production of fiberglass. Thomas refined the process, leading to what is known as the steam-blown process, patented by Kleist and Thomas. In 1938, Owens-Illinois and Corning Glass jointly created a new company, Owens-Corning Fiberglas® Corporation, to make fiberglass products using the Kleist-Thomas process, as well as other innovations created by the trio.

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