Oil Flask for Carrel-Lindbergh Perfusion Pump

Description (Brief)
This oil flask, designed by Charles Lindbergh, was used in conjunction with the Lindbergh-Carrel perfusion pump (see record MG*M-09361) in experiments at Rockefeller Institute to keep small animal organs alive outside of the body. The organ was kept sterile within the inner chambers of the perfusion pump while a nutrient-rich fluid was pumped into the organ’s artery. The oil flask provided the pulsating power for the system. When connected to the pump, the flask operated like an oil piston to drive the nutrient solution through the animal organ. The flask, like the perfusion pump, was made from Pyrex glass by master glassblower Otto Hopf, who worked at Rockefeller Institute at the time Alexis Carrel (1873–1944) was carrying out his investigations in tissue and organ culture.
The oil flask consists of two chambers and seven openings. When in operation it was partially filled with oil and connected through rubber tubing to a gas cylinder, an air tank, and several perfusion pumps. Pulses of air entered the outer chamber of the flask at the lower valve, driving oil up through the inner chamber and compressing the control gas, which entered the upper chamber at one of the top valves. This compressed gas transmitted pulses of pressure to the perfusion pumps, which drove the perfusion fluid through the pump and to the animal organ resting in the upper chamber. The oil flask was designed to operate three perfusion pumps, a configuration that was utilized by Lindbergh and Carrel in their experiments. Lindbergh describes in detail the perfusion pump, oil flask, and the apparatus assembly in his 1935 article “An Apparatus for the Culture of Whole Organs” and in the 1938 book The Culture of Organs.
Carrel, Alexis, and Charles A. Lindbergh. The Culture of Organs. New York: P.B. Hoeber, Inc., 1938.
Lindbergh, C. A. “An Apparatus for the Culture of Whole Organs.” The Journal of Experimental Medicine 62.3 (1935): 409–31. PMC. Web. 14 July 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2133279/
Currently not on view
Object Name
oil flask for perfusion pump
date made
ca 1935
Lindbergh, Charles A.
Physical Description
glass (overall material)
overall: 18 3/8 in x 6 3/4 in x 5 in; 46.6725 cm x 17.145 cm x 12.7 cm
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Scientific Instruments
Science & Mathematics
Health & Medicine
Science Under Glass
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science Under Glass
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Rockefeller Institute
maker referenced
Hallowell, Christopher. Charles Lindbergh's Artificial Heart

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