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Digital Projects, The Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry, Apparatus Museum, Use of the Pneumatic Trough

The Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry, Apparatus Museum, University of Cincinnati
Use of the Pneumatic Trough

The pneumatic trough was usually a wooden or earthenware tub filled with either water or mercury, which allowed the chemist to collect gases free from atmospheric contamination via fluid displacement in inverted containers (either bottles, flasks or, occasionally, even wine or beer glasses). The collection containers were usually supported by a wooden shelf, either resting on the rim of the trough, as shown in figure 1, taken from the 1779 edition of the essays of the Swedish chemist, Torbern Bergman, or submerged below the surface of the collection fluid, as shown in figure 2, taken from the 1774 edition of Joseph Priestley's monograph, Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air. Using this simple piece of apparatus, pneumatic chemists, in the period 1766-1776 isolated and characterized more than a dozen new "airs" or gases, thus laying the empirical foundation of the first chemical revolution initiated by the French chemist, Antoine Lavoisier, and his collaborators in the period 1770-1790.


 
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