Undoubtedly one of the most iconic pieces of laboratory equipment ever created is the humble test tube, which has been a staple in laboratories across the world for generations. Here we take a quick look back at the history and evolution of this iconic symbol of science.
Since the medieval period alchemists have been using glassware to store a variety of chemicals, however these were typically not designed specifically for experimental purposes and it was not until the early 1800's that the test tube was developed. These early test tube designs consisted of a cylindrical tube with a lipped top and rounded bottom, the characteristic features of the test tube we would recognise today.
During the 20th century the test tube really came into its own, and became a true symbol of science, and today test tubes are widely uses by scientists for a range of experimental purposes. For example chemists commonly use apparatus such as test tubes to mix and heat chemicals. Test tubes also have a number of applications in other scientific disciplines such as biology, and have helped in the discovery of a number of major scientific breakthroughs.
One of the most significant ideas with which test tubes are associated is the concept of so called “test tube babies", a term which is used to refer to babies conceived through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), which literally means fertilisation in a glass. The first test tube baby, Louise Brown, was born back in 1978, and since this time many people have benefitted greatly from IVF treatment.
Dolly the sheep also started life in a test tube, and was the first cloned mammal ever to be created from an adult cell, causing huge excitement in the scientific community and representing a huge advance in the development of cloning technology.
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