Liebig condensing column

Liebig condensing column

Usage conditions apply
Description (Brief)
This Liebig condenser was made by Whitall Tatum Company. A Liebig condenser is used to cool and condense a gas back to a liquid, often as part of the process of chemical distillation. The piece consists of a straight glass tube through which the gas travels. A water jacket surrounds the tube and helps to cool the gas.
The form is now associated with renowned German chemist Justus von Liebig (1803–1873), who suggested improvements for the condenser in 1843. However, German chemist Christian Ehrenfried Weigel (1748–1831) first mentioned the form in 1771. Historian of chemistry William B. Jensen suggests that Liebig’s name became associated with the condenser due to the many students who first encountered the form in his laboratory.
Whitall Tatum Company was among the first American glass companies to manufacture chemical glassware, starting as early as the late 1870s. Based in Millville, New Jersey, the company’s factory produced chemical and other glassware for over 150 years, finally closing its doors in 1999.
Whitall Tatum donated this object to the Museum in 1921, at the request of Charles Whitebread, assistant curator in the Division of Medicine. Whitebread planned to use the object as a part of an exhibit to illustrate pharmaceutical methods used in the manufacture of medicine. He hoped to “illustrate some of the operations to which crude drugs are subjected to get them into a form suitable for administration.” The methods he planned to display included: vaporization, distillation, sublimation, comminution, desiccation, sifting, levigation, precipitation, dialysis, expression, percolation, solution, lotion or displacement washing, decantation, collation or straining, filtration, and separation of immiscible liquids.
Harrison, Charles. Cumberland County, New Jersey: 265 Years of History. The History Press, 2013.
Jensen, William B. “The Origin of the Liebig Condenser.” Journal of Chemical Education 83, no. 1 (2006): 23. doi:10.1021/ed083p23.
National Museum of American History Accession File #67053
Rosenfeld, Louis. Four Centuries of Clinical Chemistry. CRC Press, 1999.
Whitall Tatum & Company. “Whitall Tatum & Co. Glass Ware,” 1879.
Currently not on view
Object Name
column, condensing
date made
ca 1921
Whitall Tatum Company
Physical Description
glass (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 23 in x 5 1/2 in x 1 1/4 in; 58.42 cm x 13.97 cm x 3.175 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Whitall Tatum Company
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Science Under Glass
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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