Pasteur Pipette

Description (Brief)
This glass bulb pipette, from the University of Michigan Medical School Hygienic Laboratory, was used to transfer liquids from one vessel to another in bacteriological investigations. Small quantities of liquid could be transferred using ordinary glass pipettes (see for example MG*253100.34.D), but for larger quantities the bulb pipette was necessary. The pipettes were used like straws—the liquid to be transferred was drawn up through mouth suction and the tongue or finger used to close off the tube while the material was moved to another test tube or flask.
The Michigan laboratory was established in 1887 under the direction of Dr. Victor Vaughan (1851–1929), professor of Hygiene and Physiological Chemistry and his assistant, Frederick Novy (1864–1957). The laboratory was one of the first in the country to offer courses in the new science of bacteriology. Vaughan and Novy traveled to Europe to learn bacteriological techniques at Robert Koch’s laboratory in Berlin and also visited Louis Pasteur’s laboratory in Paris. Equipment for the new laboratory was purchased during this trip. Novy credits the Pasteur school for developing the methods for preparing and using the glass pipettes. He describes these techniques for his students in his laboratory manual published in 1899.
The pipettes were made from lengths of standard glass tubing of about fourteen inches. The tubes were heated in the middle over a blast-lamp until soft and the two ends slowly drawn apart to form a long, thin capillary. This was then heated again at the center to completely seal and divide the tube in half thus forming two pipettes. The pipettes were then sterilized and cotton plugs inserted in the open end to prevent further contamination. The bulb was formed by heating a section of the thick end of the tube until soft and blowing a bulb at this point. The bulb pipette was easier to use when the capillary end was bent on an angle just below the bulb.
Novy, Frederick G. Laboratory Work in Bacteriology. Ann Arbor, Mich.: G. Wahr, 1899. 456–60.
Currently not on view
date made
early 20th century
Physical Description
cotton (plug material)
glass (pipette material)
overall: 1 1/2 in x 6 1/4 in x 5 in; 3.81 cm x 15.875 cm x 12.7 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of University of Michigan Medical School. Department of Microbiology
Science & Scientific Instruments
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Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Health & Medicine
Science Under Glass
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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