Lionel Alexander Bethune Pilkington, (7 January 1920 – 5 May 1995)(Sir Alastair Pilkington) and his associate Kenneth Bickerstaff, both of Great Britain, developed the world's first commercially successful manufacture of high quality flat glass using their float glass process. American inventors had tried several times to achieve an improved and lower-cost process to replace the costly plate glass, but had not succeeded. His breakthrough, in which the molten glass was 'floated' over a bath of molten tin and manipulated to achieved the required product thickness, enabled the UK-based Pilkington Glass company to lead the world market for high quality flat glass for many years. Starting in the early 1960s, all the world's leading flat glass manufacturers obtained licences to use the float glass process.
Pilkington was chairman of Pilkington Glass from 1973 until 1985, prior to which he had been the company's technical director.