Institute of Archaeology


Institute of Archaeology alumna receives award for work on historic glass

10 May 2024

Laura Adlington has been announced as the sixth winner of the Society of Glass Technology’s Pilkington Award, named in honour of Sir Alistair Pilkington, the inventor of float glass.

A woman positioning a piece of equipment on a tripod in front of a stained glass window

The Pilkington Award is “designed to encourage and recognise excellent work in glass research or innovation achieved by someone who, like Sir Alastair, has come relatively recently into the field of glass studies.” 

Laura will be presented with the award at the jointly held 15th European Society of Glass Conference and the 15th International Conference on the Structure of Non-Crystalline Materials to be held from 15-19 July 2024 at Churchill College, Cambridge, UK.  This is the first time that the award has been given to a researcher in historic and archaeological glass.

Laura undertook her MSc and PhD research on medieval glass at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, supervised by Ian Freestone.  Her work focused on the production of the Great East Window of York Minster, as well as the investigation of twelfth century window glass in Canterbury Cathedral. It involved the application of a range of scientific techniques to investigate the origins of the glass.   

Following her time at UCL, Laura went on to study the composition of early Islamic glass mosaics with CNRS, France. 

The award was given in recognition of the originality and impact of Laura’s work in furthering the understanding of archaeological and historical glass monuments such as stained glass windows and mosaics.  In particular, she refined and extended an approach to the analysis of glass using hand-held portable x-ray fluorescence (pXRF), which involves concentrating on well-determined trace elements. 

By 3D printing a specially designed polymer nose for the XRF she termed the WindoLyser, she was able to significantly improve the potential of analysis in the investigation of historic and archaeological glass.

Ian Freestone commented:

Laura’s work has pointed the way forward in the investigation of glass windows and mosaics.  It has already been taken up by several laboratories around Europe, and the authorities at Canterbury were recently persuaded to allow the erection of scaffolding to analyse windows which are otherwise inaccessible to analysis.”

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