Volumetric glassware

by | Local (↓) | Consistency (↑) | 1 comment | 1 question

I am submitting a standardised system of laboratory glassware used for measuring volume. What is being sold here is a standard way of measuring liquids; volumetric glass contains a precise volume at a particular temperature and is important for developing standard solutions in chemistry.

The were originally made of ordinary glass, but now tend to be made of pyrex glass or polymers. The standardised system used varies over space. There are different standards for precision science and education; there are also different standards and brands used in America, Europe and other places.

This is what the Smithsonian says about the development of a US system of volumetric glassware:

"In 1914, cut off from Europe with the advent of World War I, Americans experienced a serious shortage of laboratory glassware. In a short time, however, American glassmakers created borosilicate glass brands that were unheard of before the war. Among them was Corning Glass Works' Pyrex. Developed for kitchen use in 1915, a year later it found another market in the laboratory. It quickly became a favorite brand in the scientific community for its strength against chemicals, thermal shock, and mechanical stress. Following the end of the war, the U.S. government enacted tariffs to protect the burgeoning American laboratory glass industry from competition. The ever-growing field of American scientists provided a large market for domestic glassmakers. European glassware never again dominated the American market." http://americanhistory.si.edu/science-under-glass/inventing-american-laboratory-glass

Where and how is it used?

You will find volumetric glassware in education and research laboratories worldwide. They are vital for analytic chemistry, when you need to know the exact volume and concentration of a solution.

What did you or someone else pay for it?

I don't have any of this glass at home, but I am the owner of a 1928 book on the history of volumetric glassware.

Why do you want to add it to the museum?

I am interested in these because they are banal often invisible objects on the one hand, but they also have extensive qualities that were vital to the development of modern chemistry. They become more valuable the more standard they are, so there were international contestations over standards. I am interested in how scientists are marketed to as part of this, and how loyal they are to the brands that they use.

I have a personal connection too in that my grandfather worked at Gallenkamp on the development of volumetric glassware (hence the book). I originally went to university to study chemistry. When I was there I realised I was more interested in the geopolitics of systems of standardised glassware than the contents of the flasks, so I switched to geography instead.

How was it made?

Is made in a factory

Is farmed

Is mass-produced

Is produced by local cottage industry

Is made to particular specifications

Is craft / hand-made

Is foraged

Is found

Is colonised

Is a service

Materials & Making

Who made or produced your commodity?

specialised glassware and scientific instrument makers - i'll pick a contemporary one as an example - https://www.fishersci.co.uk/shop/products/amber-borosilicate-glass-class-a-volumetric-flask-stopper/p-8002008

Who was paid to make it?

It is not very easy to find out, but the website makes reference to its global enterprise

What skills does it take to make it?

It is a very information rich commodity, but I guess much of this is now automated

Where was it made?

Hmm. still looking for this info.

What does it cost to make it?

Presumably less than what they are selling it for.

What is it made from?

1. flask:

borosilicate Glass

2. stopper:


Buying & Owning

Who decides how much it costs?

Fisher scientific

Who or what assesses its quality?

it is covered by international standards ISO 1042, DIN 12664

Where is it sold?


Who or what sells it?

a specialist lab supplier called Fisher scientific

How did this thing arrive from where it was made to where you got it?

it hasn't, but there is lots of info on how it might move here - https://www.fishersci.co.uk/gb/en/environment-information/initiatives.html

Where is it used?


Where is it kept?

cupboards in labs presumably

How and by whom is it cared for?

lab technicians

How long will it last?

if looked after, a long time, unless dropped by chemistry students

Where will it go when it's finished with?

it could go in the brown glass section in the glass recycling bin

What is it worth?

According to the web, £59.30 - £131.00, depending on size

How do you and others value this commodity?

See the values contributed by visitors and those of the donor. And add your own values to this commodity.

Total times valued3
Positive (↑)Consistency
Negative (↓)Local
Overall Positive222
Overall Negative-22
Controversy36.333333333333 (0 = most controversial)

What do these numbers mean?

This data that we have collected over time in our database means nothing without interpretation. A relational database, which we are using here, is technology that enables designers of websites and software to compare, contrast, interrogate and infer relations within data. The act of designing a database is not objective but driven by the agency of its creators and owners.

Within the MoCC Collection data is used to help think through the relations between values, commodities and data. Can we describe our values using sliders and numbers? How do we infer meaning such as controversy from data?

Below is a brief explanation of the some calculations and how these help make decisions about what is shown on the site.

  • Controversy Score:
    (Total Positive Values) + (Total Negative Values)

    The closer the value is to zero the more controversial it is in relation to other commodities. Used to infer that values associated with one commodity divide opinion more than another.

  • Average Value Score (used in the sliders):
    (Total Positive for Value + Total Negative for Value) ÷ Total Times Valued

    Used to infer a collective value associated with a commodity.

How do you value this commodity?

To add your own values click VALUE THIS COMMODITY and move the sliders left and right to add your own values - then click SUBMIT
show donor's original values
- 0
29 +
- 0
25 +
- 0
25 +
- 0
19 +
- 0
15 +
- 0
15 +
- 0
13 +
- 0
9 +
- 0
10 +
- 0
10 +
- 0
9 +
- 0
8 +
- 0
10 +
- 0
6 +
- 3
5 +
- 0
2 +
- 2
3 +
- 0
0 +
- 0
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- 7
7 +
- 0
1 +
- 0
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- 0
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- 0
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- 10
1 +

Questions and answers

Help to reveal unknown quantities, properties and uses of this commodity by answering this MoCC curator's questions.

Question: Just wondering, does anyone else out there have a potentially strange emotional connection to any kind of laboratory equipment?


What a brilliant question! I’m Lizzie and I’ll be your Commodity Consultant for today,

This is definitely a question for my mum, a science technician for over ten years she certainly has her opinions about laboratory equipment! I’ve just got off the phone to her and she knew her answers straight away! Her favourite piece of lab equipment is an
Autoclave, mainly for the accuracy it provides, it sterilises equipment to exactly 120 degrees for the 5 minutes she needs for it be to be sterile and it also means that she can be sure that everything she does is safe. The autoclave was an expensive piece of equipment and before she had to use a pressure cooker which was much harder work and she worried about its safety. Mum also had a least favourite piece of equipment – glass pipettes! Each class has a set of about 24 and she said that her heart fills with dread when she knows she has to clean each pipette with distilled water four times and she knows it will take TWO hours!

In addition to what mum said I’d like to add that she has a particular affinity for the classroom’s chinchilla, although it depends on what you call ‘laboratory equipment’. Every holiday the chinchilla comes home with mum as she worries it will get lonely at work!

As for me, my favourite piece of laboratory equipment is a lab coat after many Halloweens’ borrowing my mum’s!

What about everyone else?!

Thanks for the great question!


by LizzieH on August 26th at 8:23pm


Do you have questions about how this commodity is valued? Or want to talk about your own values in relation to it? Share your comments.

Hi Lizzie,

Thank you so much for your research and your thoughful for answer. Please thank you mum too. She sounds like she does an amazing job looking after the items that she cares for, whether they are pipettes or chinchillas, which makes me very happy.

I hope you clean your mum's lab coat to her high standards after you have borrowed it for Halloween!


by gaildavies on August 27th at 7:16pm

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