Description (Brief)
The object is a retort made by Schott & Genossen. Retorts are among the oldest forms of glassware used in chemistry. With their bulbs and long necks, they are suitable for distillation—the separation of one material from another through heating. The bulb containing the sample is heated and the resulting gases travel along the neck to a second collecting vessel.
Glastechnisches Laboratorium Schott und Genossen (Glass Technology Laboratory, Schott & Associates), later the Jenaer Glasswerk Schott & Gen. (Jena Glassworks, Schott & Associates), was founded in 1884 by Otto Schott (1851–1935), Ernst Abbe (1840–1905), Carl Zeiss (1816–1888), and Zeiss' son Roderick.
In 1881 Schott, a chemist from a family of glassmakers, and Abbe, a physicist with an interest in optics, formed a research partnership. Together they hoped to perfect a chemical glass formula for lenses in optical instruments like microscopes and telescopes. Their original goal was to develop glasses of high quality and purity with consistent optical properties. As their research expanded, they eventually developed the first borosilicate glasses. Their strength against chemical attack and low coefficient of thermal expansion made them better suited to the harsh circumstances of the chemical laboratory than any other glass.
Jena Glass quickly became a success among the scientific community, widely considered the best on the market until World War I.
John Christian Bailar Jr. (1904–1991), a chemist with a more than sixty-year career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, donated this retort. Bailar helped usher in the post-World War II renaissance in inorganic chemistry and has been called “the father of American coordination chemistry.” Coordination chemistry focuses on molecules with a metal center, bound to atoms, ions, or molecules that donate electrons to the metal.
Baker, Ray Stannard. Seen in Germany. Chautauqua, N. Y.: 1908.
Cauwood, J.D., and W.E.S. Turner. “The Attack of Chemical Reagents on Glass Surfaces, and a Comparison of Different Types of Chemical Glassware.” Journal of the Society of Glass Technology 1 (1917): 153–62.
Hovestadt, Heinrich. Jena Glass and Its Scientific and Industrial Applications. London, New York: Macmillan, 1902.
“Introduction to Coordination Chemistry.” Accessed June 22, 2015.
“John Christian Bailar, Jr. (1904–1991).”The Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois. Accessed June 22, 2015.
Pfaender, H. G. Schott Guide to Glass. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.
Walker, Percy H. Comparative Tests of Chemical Glassware. Washington, D.C.: 1918.
Object Name
date made
after 1884
Schott and Genossen
Physical Description
glass (overall material)
tube: 38 cm; 14 15/16 in
overall: 19 cm x 44.5 cm x 13.7 cm; 7 1/2 in x 17 1/2 in x 5 3/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Science & Mathematics
Science Under Glass
History Highlights: Science Under Glass
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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