A large wooden case (2023.med.50.1, 69 cm on its longest side) has a removable lid and contains nine glass flasks and one fragment of tubing broken from one of the flasks. Each flask consists of a bulb with a flattened base and (with the exception of the two sealed, liquid filled flasks) was originally made with a tapering neck. Most of the necks have been broken.
The interior of the case has a shallow 8 x 3 grid into which the bases of the flasks can be fit. The bottom of the case is in poor condition and may be unstable.
The removable lid is a frame with a glass window through which the interior of the case can be seen.
The flasks are as follows:
2023.med.50.2: A glass flask with a sealed neck approximately half full of a yellow liquid.
2023.med.50.3: A glass flask with a sealed neck approximately half full of a yellow liquid. This example has a red “X” drawn on its surface.
2023.med.50.4: An empty glass flask with a truncated, broken neck. The neck is cracked near the break.
2023.med.50.5: An empty glass flask with a truncated, broken neck. This is slightly longer than 2023.med.50.4.
2023.med.50.6: An empty glass flask with a truncated, broken neck. The remaining portion of the neck is curved.
2023.med.50.7: An empty glass flask with a truncated, broken neck. The remaining portion of the neck is curved. The curved portion is slightly longer than 2023.med.50.6.
2023.med.50.8: An empty glass flask with a truncated, broken neck. The remaining portion of the neck protrudes vertically from the bulb of the flask. The neck is longer and narrower than the previous examples.
2023.med.50.9: An empty glass flask with a truncated, broken neck. The neck is of similar length to 2023.med.50.8, but is angled downwards.
2023.med.50.10: An empty glass flask with a long, bent neck. Its neck is the longest of the examples in this collection. Its opening is below the base of the flask.
2023.med.50.11: A fragment of broken neck from one of the flasks.
Accession Number: 2023.med.50.1-11
Primary Materials: Wood, Glass
A type-written note pinned to the interior of the case reads as follows: “PASTEUR’S GOOSE-NECKED FLASKS.// These are copies of the flasks used by Louis Pasteur//
in his experiments on Spontaneous Generationsabout [sic] 1860.// DO_NOT_REMOVE.”
A handwritten note, written in orange ink and taped to the outside of the case reads: “MICROBIOLOGY Demo// Dr. G. Clark”. A similar label is taped to the lid. These labels were removed and are kept with the artifact.
A damaged handwritten label on the bottom of the case appears to read, in part “Prof. Croft” the remainder is illegible.
There appears to be some text scratched into the front surface of the wooden case. This is difficult to read, though it may include a measurement: “166” “.
Dimensions (cm): Height = 12, Width 39. length = 60.
These artifacts are recreations of the swan neck flasks (“bouteille à col de cygne) used in the mid-19th century experiments of French Chemist Louis Pasteur (1882-1895). Pasteur used these flasks to disprove the notion that spontaneous generation of organisms was responsible for putrefaction. These recreations were likely created for teaching purposes and as emblems of the utility of experimental research.
It is difficult to establish the condition of the individual flasks because it is unclear whether a given flask has been intentionally or accidentally broken. The base of the case is in poor condition and may require additional support.
Likely a local University of Toronto glassblower.
Date of Manufacture: Possibly mid-to-late 19th century.
This artifact was acquired from the Special Projects Coordinator of the Division of Teaching Laboratories, Temerty Faculty of Medicine on Wednesday 23 November, 2022.
The partial label on the bottom of the artifact may indicate that it was created during the tenure of Henry Holmes Croft (1820-1883) who arrived in Toronto in 1843 to teach chemistry and experimental philosophy at King’s College. King’s College was renamed the University of Toronto in 1849. Croft’s tenure coincided with Pasteur’s famous experiments. His mandate would have made these artifacts a useful teaching tool.
The “G. Clark” mentioned on the notes taped to the artifact is A. Gavin Clark, retired Professor of Medical Genetics and Microbiology at the Faculty of Medicine.
Additional Information and References:
The swan neck Flask (ballon à col de cygne) is a famous glass apparatus that was used by French researcher Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895) to settle a controversy about the possibility of spontaneous generation, the belief that life could appear spontaneously from non-living matter. Pasteur, one of a long line of thinkers to oppose spontaneous generation, argued that contamination was caused by germs carried on the air. He created an experiment to show that bottles of broth, sealed from the air, would not putrefy. A later design with a long neck, which opened to the air, showed that the broth in the flask would not putrefy as long as the neck was sufficiently long to prevent dust from entering the bottle.
- Donated to UTSIC