The Laboratory

As late as the 19th century, most laboratories and pharmacies in Sweden were privately owned. The exceptions were university laboratories and the ”prober- och laborantkammare” (”assay and laboratory chamber”) set up by the National Board of Mines as early as 1648. There were no strict rules for how a laboratory should be arranged and equipped, though there was an understanding of the need to protect against toxic gases. 

To achieve a reasonable working environment in the laboratory, a long list of practical problems needed solutions. A laboratory on the ground floor could often be damp. On the other hand, it was difficult to transport water to locations higher up – all water had to be carried in by hand and stored in large clay vessels with a tap.

The workplace was usually furnished with a large table in the centre of the room. Shelves were set up along the walls for chemicals, equipment and tools. The room could be warmed with a tile oven and lit with oil lamps, fired with olive or hemp oil.

Blowpipe tables and fume cupbaords were important furnishings

Different types of ovens were used for boiling, evaporation and a range of chemical processes that required high temperatures. For direct heating on a small scale the spirit lamp was used.

Blowpipe experiments, glass blowing, dissolving in acids and other tasks were all performed at the so-called blowpipe table.  Over the table there was often a height-adjustable smoke hood with bellows connected to the upper part of the tile oven – an important construction for protection against toxic gases.

Faraday in his laboratory sometime in the 1850s

Michael Faraday, the British physicist and chemist, was an important contributor to the development of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. He also discovered the predecessor to the bunsen burner, a quick source of heat that is used in science laboratories just about everywhere.