What is 42?

You may have seen these items listed on ebay and wondered “what the heck?” A toothpick holder (I think), a coaster, a Zippo brand measuring tape, a belt buckle made by Indiana Metal Craft, and a ruler.

All feature a prominent logo “Pyrex 42 Corning” and the backwards dollar stamp. Pyrex was invented by Corning Glass Works and original stamps feature the backwards dollar sign. So all that is easy enough to understand. But, what is 42? According to a local area Facebook Group, the above items are swag given out annually to an exclusive mailing list known as “Group 42,” a key customer group of Corning Science Products (now Corning Life Sciences). “The marketing campaign always centered around the Group 42 mailing list with an annual “gift” and Monthly Planner, new product introductions, etc.”

However, this still does not answer the question, why 42? Douglas Adams would argue 42 is the answer to “ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.” I said to my husband, maybe 42 was an inside joke as “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was published in 1979 and Indiana Metal Craft was founded in 1975. Scientifically, Adams’ answer of 42 may not be that far off. I infer that 42 is actually in reference to the 1942 patent for fused silica by Dr. James Franklin Hyde, a Corning Glass Works Scientist recruited by Dr. Eugen Sullivan in 1930. Hyde’s work on the Pyrex 200-inch disc, inspired his idea for flame hydrolysis to make the highest quality commercial glass still in production today. Hyde became known as the “father of silicones” and his invention led to windows in space shuttles, telescope mirrors, computer chips, and the beginnings of fiber optic cables.

Why not immortalize the two greatest inventions ever?