Multi-Plater Multiple Millipore Filtration Apparatus

Description (Brief)
This multipore filter multiplater was designed and used in the National Institute of Health lab of Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, a scientist who won the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in helping to “crack the genetic code,” or to understand the way DNA codes for the amino acids that are linked to build proteins.
Part of Dr. Nirenberg's research involved making radioactively-labeled proteins. To analyze the proteins, Nirenberg had to separate them from the solution in which they were suspended. The first step in this process was to add trichloroacetic acid, which caused the proteins to form a solid, clumping together into a mass known as a precipitate. Next, the precipitate had to be separated from the rest of the solution. Originally separation was done by differential centrifugation, but that process was very time-consuming. Eventually, Nirenberg decided to try washing the precipitate over millipore filters under suction. The solution was pored over a millipore filter, trapping the precipitate but letting the solution drain through. Suction sped up the draining process. The first device he designed only was capable of handling one sample at a time, but later Philip Leder, who was then working with Dr. Nirenberg, designed this device to run large batches of the process. The mulitiple pores allowed suction to be applied to 45 samples at once.
The instrument was made in the NIH Instrument Fabrication section and was dubbed the "multi-plater" by Dr. Nirenberg. Compared to the centrifuge, it saved immense amounts of time, allowing the researchers to increase their output by more than five-fold.
The device has a four-legged steel base with tube connections for suction. The top portion, made of plastic, is in two parts and clamps onto the base. The bottom plastic part contains the 45 millipore filters. The top portion, which fits over it, has 45 holes connecting to the filters into which the precipitate is placed and then stoppered.
To learn more about Dr. Nirenberg’s efforts to crack the genetic code please see his jar of oligonucleotides, object number 2001.0023.02.
Currently not on view
date made
NIH Instrument Fabrication Section
place made
United States: Maryland, Bethesda
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 21.7 cm x 68.5 cm x 16.6 cm; 8 9/16 in x 26 15/16 in x 6 9/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Insititutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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