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Liquids Handling Professional Pipetting Celebrates 60th Birthday

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

Sixty years ago, Eppendorf introduced the world’s first industrially manufactured piston-stroke pipette. Launched in 1961, the Eppendorf “Marburg Pipette” already featured the same basic elements as those found in today’s labs: a spring-loaded piston that stops precisely at a set volume level and a removable pipette tip made of plastic.

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Eppendorf celebrates the 60th birthday of a pipetting masterstroke.
Eppendorf celebrates the 60th birthday of a pipetting masterstroke.
(Source: Eppendorf)

Hamburg/Germany — Until the 1950’s, scientists transferred liquids via mouth-pipetting; a technique whereby the user would suck up liquids by mouth into thin glass tubes. Not only were these pipettes routinely cleaned with dangerous chemicals such as sulfuric acid, but anecdotal reports also linked mouth-pipetting to the ingestion of hazardous substances, including a typhoid culture and even plutonium. Frustrated by the inadequacies of mouth-pipetting, German physician Heinrich Schnitger self-constructed a “device for the fast and exact pipetting of small liquid volumes” and filed a patent for it in 1958.

Eppendorf was the first to recognize the importance of Schnitger’s invention and developed it further. This work culminated in the “Marburg Pipette” — the world’s first commercial piston-stroke pipette, launched by the company in 1961. Along with the first disposable tube for handling microliter volumes (the “Eppi”), a microliter centrifuge and a thermo-mixer, the ‘Marburg Pipette’ formed Eppendorf’s microliter system; a toolset in many scientific disciplines that today defines the standard in research labs all over the world.

Today, Eppendorf customers can choose from a broad range of instruments, consumables, and services to suit their liquid handling needs and further accelerate their research.