Evolution of The Pipette – 1950

The Pipette in 1950

We came across an absolutely outstanding article written by John Buie which covers the detailed evolution of the pipette starting all the way back in 1950. It was so interesting that we thought it best to share this information with you. As such we’ll be posting a series of posts over the next couple of weeks detailing how the Pipette has revolutionized over 6 decades.

This article looks at the pipette and how increasing demands in microanalysis, lab safety and automation have shaped its evolution. We also look at particular innovators in the manufacturing of scientific instruments who, with their thumbs on the pulse of research, have responded with groundbreaking innovations in pipette development.

Week 1 – The Beginning

The Pipette in 1950In the beginning… Larger-than-ideal volumes of liquid were transferred using a modified piece of graduated glass tube, which  often went by the name of the Carlsberg pipette. Researchers constructed these in the lab by heating a piece of glass tube over a Bunsen burner while pulling at one end; then, by repeating this operation close to the tip of the tube, a capillary could be pulled. This would allow air flow, but enable users to stop the liquid at the desired volume for which they had constructed the pipette.

Carlsberg pipettes also were being used outside of the lab by milk inspectors, who would mouth-pipette raw milk samples onto a microscope slide for analysis. One of these inspectors was G.S. Riggs, who was not fond of this practice for obvious safety and efficiency reasons. Riggs filed a patent for a mechanical device that would suck the milk up into the tube. Riggs’ patent was referenced in the filing of Warren Gilson’s patent for the modern-day mechanical pipette 24 years later.

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