Blowpipe kit and three blowpipes, 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Boxed set including a blowpipe, tweezers and chemicals for testing. The colour the flame produced during a flame test often indicates the identity of the substance being tested. For example, a potasium compound burns with a lilac flame. This set was made by W A Taylor of Penzance. Beside the box are reproductions of three mouth blowpipes which belonged to the English chemists William Hyde Wollaston (1766-1828), Smithson Tennant (1761-1815) and the Swedish chemist Tobern Olof Bergman (1735-1784). Blowing through the pipe over a candle providing a heat source produced a tiny area of intense heat on a charcoal block. This created the correct conditions for reducing many metals from their ores.