A selection of blowpipes, c 1750-1810.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The use of mouth blowpipes dates from Egyptian times. 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 as well as effecting other reactions which could not be produced on a larger scale. The blowpipes shown are, from right to left: a reproduction of Cronstedt's c 1750 with a ball to trap moisture condensed from the breath; a reproduction of Bergman's c 1770; a modern version of Gahn's c 1789; a reproduction of Tennant's c 1790 with an orifice which could be turned at any angle; Wollaston's c 1810; a modern version of Black's; Bucknell's c 1910; and Pepys' c 1810.