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De Fonbrune Micromanipulator


The artefact consists of two principal components, the micromanipulator (1) mechanism and the controller (2). The two are joined by three pieces of narrow clear “Tygon” tubing that have been braided together. – The micromanipulator mechanism is a sturdy metal object with a clear plastic cover. The metal frame is finished in black. A microtool–in this case a short metal point–protrudes from the front. Several knurled adjusting knobs protrude from the metal stand beneath the plastic cover. Beneath the plastic cover lie the pneumatic micromanipulator mechanisms. These are “deformable capsules” (capsules déformables) that mechanically actuate the tool tips via metal arms. A small cylindrical piece–a supplementary tool holder–is attached to the front part of the piece outside the plastic cover. – The controller (récepteur) resembles a joystick and is mounted on a sturdy metal base with the same black finish as the micromanipulator mechanism. The travel of the handle is bounded by a circular frame that has a silver finish. The controller incorporates three pistons that actuate the microtool along the x, y, and z axes respectively. These pistons are connected to the deformable capsules via narrow clear tubes.

Accession Number:

Alternative Name: Pneumatic micromanipulator

Primary Materials: Iron Alloy, Plastic, Copper Alloy


1) The Controller has the following information engraved in the circular element surrounding the control stick:



The number “971” is scratched into the black enamel on the upper surface of the frame.

2) The Micromanipulator mechanism includes the following information.

On the right-hand side (with the microtool pointing towards the viewer), the following information is written in embossed letters:

BREVETE S.G.D.G. 754813

Patent [Angleterre 400109-418747
U.S.A. 1987733-1987734

On the left-hand side, the following information is written in embossed letters:

no 212
CH. Beaudouin
Constr PARIS

The number “971” is scratched into the black enamel on the base of the frame.

Dimensions (cm): Length: 22, Width: 12.5, Height: 16. Length: 19.5, Width: 19.5, Height: 20.5. Rubber tube length: approx. 116.5


The micromanipulator is used to manipulate microscopic objects. A number of operations can be performed depending on what microtool is mounted in the instrument. Micromanipulation usually takes place on a microscope stage.


Very Good: The instrument is functional. Certain metal parts, especially screw heads, are slightly corroded.

Associated Instruments:

Manufacturer: Charles Beaudouin, Paris

Date of Manufacture: c. 1949-1960.


This artefact was gathered, along with several others, from the staff at the Physics Learning & Research Services of the Department of Physics in August of 2017.

Little is currently known about when it was used, though the presence of a relatively large metal tool tip suggests that it was not used with extremely small biological samples.

Additional Information and References:

Fonbrune, Pierre Dussumier de. <i>Technique de micromanipulation.</i> Paris: Masson, 1949.

Historical Notes:

The de Fonbrune pneumatic micromanipulator was developed in the early 1930s by Pierre Dussumier de Fonbrune of the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The first prototype instrument was demonstrated in 1932. The instrument was perfected between 1936 and 1938 with the assistance of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique and the instrument makers Paul Beaudouin and Henri Gondet. This history is briefly described in the introduction to [de Fonbrune,1949].

Paul Beaudouin was the nephew of Charles Beaudouin, who had first established a Paris-based instrument manufacturing enterprise around 1914.

The instrument was an improvement over earlier micromanipulators in the sense that the controller permitted easy and intuitive control across three axes. For instance, the <a href=””>Chambers’ Micromanipulator</a>, developed around 1918, required that each axis be controlled separately using an adjustment screw.

De Fonbrune and his colleagues at the Institut Pasteur developed a number of related technologies, including a specialized microforge for creating various glass microtools and an oil-based moist chamber that prevented evaporation of the suspension liquid when working with organic samples.