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Alembic, used by Joseph Black

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possibly made at Leith

Alembic, used by Joseph Black
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An alembic is a device used in chemical distillations. This glass example was used in classroom demonstrations or experiments by Professor Joseph Black (1728-99) at Edinburgh University. It was made in the late 18th century, possibly at Leith.

The bottom edge of the dark green alembic is turned inwards and upwards to form a gutter, to catch the distillate which runs off through the glass spout sloping away at an angle. A thick knob of glass attached to the summit of the dome acts as a handle.

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.

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