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Laboratory Pipettes: A Brief History

by David Curry

Laboratory pipette is one of the common devices used in clinical settings and laboratories. Laboratory pipettes are also used to remove or transfer small volumes of liquid from one vessel to another vessel. Many have the misconception laboratory pipettes are a recent invention.

However, the truth is laboratory pipettes have been around for nearly two centuries. The earliest record of the pipette is the 18th century. French microbiologist, biologist, and chemist Louis Pasteur invented the first glass pipette in the 18th century. His primary purpose was to prevent the contamination of samples.

In the 1940s, plastic pipettes were developed. Since then, not much development has taken place. In 1915, a survey of 57 laboratories found out that 40% of workplace infections were attributed to mouth pipetting. Understandably, drastic changes have to be made.

In 1957, a radical development in pipettes took place when Heinrich Schnitger invented the piston-driven system pipette. He developed it during his postdoctoral studies in the University of Marburg. The patent for Heinrich Schnitger’s piston-driven pipette was granted in 1961.

The latest development in today’s modern pipette took place in 1974 and it was initiated by Henry Lardy and Warren Gilson. Unlike Schnitger’s fixed volume model, the new model is now adjustable. The Gilson pipette is considered the most direct ancestor of today’s modern pipettes.

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