Investigating Germs

The emergence of bacteriology in the late 19th century prompted the need for laboratories in health departments, hospitals, and medical schools where glassware played an important role in research and diagnosis. Glass could withstand the high temperatures required for sterilization and could be easily formed into unique shapes and tools needed to maintain the germ-free conditions necessary for investigations.

Bacteriology laboratory, Howard University, Washington, D.C., around 1900

Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-40472


Pasteur pipette
In the late 19th century American bacteriologist Frederick Novy learned the techniques for making glass pipettes at the Pasteur laboratory in Paris. These tools, each hand-formed, were used like straws to transfer liquid samples for culturing bacteria.

Novy anaerobe bottle

This special glass vessel was designed by Frederick Novy at the University of Michigan for culturing anaerobic bacteria which require an oxygen-free environment. Hydrogen gas was pumped into the bottle through the valve at the top, pushing the air (oxygen) out through the opposite opening.

Pasteur flask

French chemist Louis Pasteur developed unique glass flasks for growing and studying bacteria that became standard tools in bacteriology labs. The long neck helped keep contamination out while the thin side arm was used for transferring the liquid contents.


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