The Evolution of Laboratory Equipment Then & Now

The Evolution of Laboratory Equipment Then & Now

Chemistry is an ancient science, better known as alchemy in the yesteryears. It took thousands of years to evolve from the experimental alchemist workshops to the current day modern chemical laboratories. There have been myriad changes in between. Not only does this evolution involve the methods and aims of experiments but also the various kinds of equipment used to perform experiments.

If we dig into the history of chemistry, it is easy to find a distinct evolutionary path. Let us summarize how basic laboratory equipment has evolved all through these decades.

Balance Systems

A balance is one of the oldest laboratory equipment used to measure. Even in medieval laboratory findings, there is mention of balance systems. Crude and not very accurate balances gradually gave way to finer and more detailed ones so that by the 19th century, scientists could measure up to 5 mg of weights. With the advent of the modern era, micro-analysis came into existence. Thus, micro-balances that could weigh up to one-thousandth milligram became the new trend. Till date, they are the basis of most modern day balancing science lab equipment.


Used by the Greeks way back in the 4th century, an aerometer was then a simple cylindrical tube with horizontal markings to measure how deep it can submerge in a liquid. Some called it as hydroscopium. Finally, Boyle rediscovered the use of the oblivious aerometer, and now it is used to determine the density of different kinds of liquids.

Volumetric Analysis – Industrial Origin

Earlier, the volumetric analysis was largely restricted to industrial purposes. Since scientists could not determine accurately about atomic masses, they could not use this method for laboratory purposes. But, now the most modernized volumetric analysis methods are computerized. Though these are still dependent on balance systems to determine standard values, volumetric analysis has given laboratory equipment a new dimension.

Titrimetry Equipment

Titrimetry was earlier performed in the 18th century by as simple equipment as a teaspoon. Then came the traditional pipette and burette which were very commonly used for textile bleaching. But these burettes were without cocks. Later, metal cocks were used which were then replaced by glass ones. Still used in modern day titrimetry, burettes are very useful for measured droppings. Now, they essentially have electronic or electro-chemical indications of the end-point, and even the termination of operation is automated.

Mechanical Shakers

A boon for modern laboratories, the mechanical shaker is the best solution to difficult experiments that involve intense shaking. Though Gay Lussac had developed own method of an ingenious way of shaking in 1832, shakers have evolved technically making the process more automated and accurate now.

Qualitative Analytical Equipment

Evolving from inventions and developments in both physics and chemistry, earlier spectroscopes were best suited for qualitative analysis. Later lighting with gas quickly replaced them. Now, gas burners are present in most modern laboratories too for all heating purposes and proved as the best science lab equipment.

There have been significant changes then and now that have contributed to the success of laboratories.

Also, read  The Importance of Advanced Science Lab Equipment in School Labs

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