Cucurbits, used by Joseph Black

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possibly made at Leith

Postcard of Cucurbits, used by Joseph Black.
© National Museums Scotland

Cucurbits, used by Joseph Black

A cucurbit is used under an alembic for boiling distillates. These glass examples were used in classroom demonstrations or experiments by Professor Joseph Black (1728-99) at Edinburgh University. They were made in the late 18th century, possibly at Leith.

Made from dark green glass, the cucurbit sat below the alembic (not shown here). As the mixture boiled within, it evaporated and condensed in the alembic, where it ran off after cooling against the top.

With his separation and identification of the first gas distinct from air (carbon dioxide), Black may be considered the father of pneumatic chemistry. Other gases, notably oxygen and nitrogen, were discovered in quick succession by other scientists.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-044-139-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1858.275.38
Date: 1766 - 1799
Late 18th century
Material: Glass
What: Solution glass
Subject: 4. CHEMISTRY, Apparatus and instruments, general (Departmental Classification)
Who: Edinburgh University (Owner)
Joseph Black (Owner)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh, Leith
Description: One of a collection of apparatus and instruments from Edinburgh University used by Professors Black, Hope and Gregory - three solution glasses used by Dr Joseph Black in his lectures, 1766 - 1799
  • Anderson, R. G. W. & Simpson, A. D. C., Edinburgh and Medicine: A Commemorative Catalogue of the Exhibition held at the Royal Scottish Museum. Edinburgh: 1976, p 40, item 187 
  • Anderson, R. G. W., The Playfair Collection. Edinburgh: 1978, p 135, 142-7 
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