Object Name: glass tubing for chemical experiments, belonging to Joseph Priestley
Dimensions: 7 x 64 x 2 cm (2 3/4 x 25 3/16 x 13/16 in.)
Description: Glass tubing for chemical experiments. Bent tube of thick glass with two glass collars. An iron clamp wraps around one of the collars.
Inscribed: on paper label: From Priestley's Laboratory given to Dr. Hare, by his pride [for and ap] preciation of Priestley and from Dr. Hare to Dr. Gibbs.
pasted on the glass collar in white on black: 1960
Function: Any number of experiments might be done with such a thick glass tube. One passage from Priestley's Observations and Experiments on the Different Types of Air, Volume III (1790) describes the following experiment: "A small quantity of this solution [of gold] I had put into a very thick glass tube about nine inches long, and I placed it in the sand furnace on the 11th of August, and on the 23d of the same month, I found much of the gold precipitated and adhering to the sides of the glass in the form of slender crystals, very beautiful." As for this specific tube, no function can be attributed to it with certainty.
Historical Attributes: Joseph Priestley came to the United States 1794 at the behest of Benjamin Franklin and resided in Northumberland, PA, until his death in 1804.
Dr. Robert Hare, chemist at the University of Pennsylvania, sent this piece of glass to a colleague at Harvard. Although Wolcott Gibbs is mentioned, he did not join the faculty until 1863, long after Dr. Hare's death. Professor John Gorham, a member of the faculty from 1809 to 1827, probably received the glass tubing.
Curatorial Remarks: According to the instrument's file, the thickness of the tube suggests that it was part of Priestley's apparatus in isolating oxygen as "dephlogisticated" air.
Information about Priestley and Gibbs on file; photographs on file.
For a good sampling of Joseph Priestley's work, see Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air, and Other Branches of Natural Philosophy, Connected with the Subject
, 3 Volumes
(Thomas Pearson, 1790), available here