Scientific Glassblowing

While the mass-production of standard glassware like beakers, test tubes and flasks became possible by the 1920s, scientists still work closely with skilled glassblowers to create myriad complicated, often beautiful forms to suit their experimental needs.


Carrel-Lindbergh Perfusion Pump

The so-called "glass heart," designed by Alexis Carrel and Charles Lindbergh, was made by master glassblower Otto Hopf out of Pyrex glass at the Rockefeller Institute in 1935. The pump was used to keep an animal organ alive outside of the body. Glass allowed for an intricate, seamless design of multiple inner and outer chambers required to protect the organ from contamination, while a sterile nutrient-rich fluid was continually pumped through the organ.

Charles Lindbergh and Alexis Carrel with the glass heart, by Samuel Johnson Woolf, 1938

Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution © Estate of S. J. Woolf

John Breda, scientific glassblower for the Chemical Division of Standard Oil Development Company, New Jersey, 1947

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA Acc. 13-034