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Published: Wednesday, 2/8/2006

3 OC researchers to be named to Inventors Hall

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

America was only five years beyond the crash of '29, and Franklin Roosevelt had recently moved into the Oval Office.

Researcher Dale Kleist, while melting and spraying glass in an experiment, made an accidental discovery that would change the home-insulation industry. The results would lead to a process for mass-producing fiberglass.

He and two other inventors associated with Toledo's Owens Corning, which bills itself as the inventor of fiberglass, are to be named this morning to the prestigious National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron.

They are among the first people associated with a Toledo company named to the hall, which includes Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Besides Mr. Kleist, the other OC inductees to be named are Russell Games Slayter and John "Jack" Thomas.

They are among 21 inductees for 2006 who are to be named during an announcement in Washington, said Jason Saragian, an OC spokesman. They will be formally inducted May 5 in Akron.

"Their innovative work resulted in a new type of mass-produced affordable fiberglass insulation that is now used by millions of people around the world every day," OC Chief Executive Dave Brown said in a written statement.

The three men, all of whom are deceased, began their work at Toledo's Owens-Illinois Inc. in the 1930s. Their success led to the formation of Owens Corning in 1938.

The firm originally was a joint venture set up by O-I and Corning Inc., of New York, to exploit promising glass-fiber technology.

Fiberglass insulation is found in homes, offices, and household appliances.

It also is used as a lightweight strengthening agent in plastic materials for cars, boats, and bathroom fixtures.

"Games" Slayter, as he was called, was a chemical engineer who was known as the "father of fiberglass" during his lifetime.

Born in Argos, Ind., in 1896, he streamlined a process developed by Mr. Kleist and Mr. Thomas that used blown steam to make glass fibers.

He also greatly expanded applications of the new technology. He was OC's first vice president in charge of research and development. He died in 1964.

Mr. Kleist was born in Newark, Ohio, in 1909 and died in 1998.

His accidental discovery in 1934 was said to be a crucial early breakthrough.

He was attempting to seal together architectural glass blocks when an errant spray of hot liquid glass formed tiny glass fibers.

Mr. Thomas, who was born in East St. Louis, Ill., in 1907, had hired Mr. Kleist to work in glass research at O-I and quickly recognized the implications of his protege's discovery. The patent for the steam-blown process is in the names of the two men.

Mr. Thomas died in 1991, but not before rising through the ranks at OC. In 1967, he was named president of the company, then known as Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. He also served on the board of directors.

For years, Toledo boosters have worked unsuccessfully to get Michael J. Owens, founder of O-I, into the Hall of Fame. His research led to major advances in the mass production of glass bottles.

However, the OC employees aren't the first researchers with northwest Ohio links to receive the honor.

The others included Graham Durant, a former University of Toledo professor, who was part of a team that patented the ulcer drug Tagamet, and Donalee Tabern, a Bowling Green native, who patented many drugs for Abbott Laboratories, including the sleep aids Nembutal and Pentothal.

Contact Gary T. Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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