27/05/2022

Pipettes: A Brief History

If you work in the pharmaceutical, biotech, or medical device industries, you probably use pipettes on a daily basis without even thinking about it.

The pipette, the most common piece of laboratory equipment for extracting samples, has been around for more than sixty years. Single channel and multi channel pipettes are used to move liquids and semi-solids. But have you given much thought about how the precision instruments were created?

The Birth of the Pipette

When it came to the creation of the first single channel pipettes, as with so many other great advances in science, necessity was the mother of its invention.

One of the major challenges faced by laboratories in the early 1950s was transferring ideal volumes of liquid, but later in 1958, a revolutionary invention of pipette was done by one of the German scientists named Heinrich Schnitger, but this invention had many limitations.

The pipette worked by attaching a spring to the syringe and replacing the needle with a plastic tip. The first pipette was known as the Marburg pipette and was distributed by the Eppendorf medical supply company.

Warren Gilson, the Founder and Managing Director of Gilson Medical Electronics, invented the first mechanically adjustable pipette in 1978. The mechanical one looks a lot like the one that’s currently in use in laboratories nowadays.

This new invention resulted in improved accuracy, comfort, and variable volume adjustments, as well as the development of the gilson pipetman. Capp Denmark manufacturers developed the first autoclavable pipette in 1984. Autoclavable pipettes account for more than 80% of those sold today. The same Denmark manufacturers invented the volume control knob.

 

While most laboratory pipettes on the market today are precision engineered,the original tools were made through heating glass tubes and stretching them in the center to create a thin tendril. When the pipettes were snapped apart, they formed two thin-ended pipettes. Many transfer pipettes are now made of plastic, rather than glass, to make them less fragile.

When measuring substances with pipettes, accuracy is essential. Fortunately, modern scientists have access to controlled environments and refined equipment, allowing them to finely calibrate their instruments, including pipettes, for ongoing accuracy.