Questionable Practices of the Past: Mouth Pipetting

Questionable Practices of the Past: Mouth Pipetting

By Leonis | STEM stuff | 22 Jul 2020

         Throughout my training, I've heard of the fabled technique of mouth pipetting. As the name suggests, it involves using pipettes, but with your mouth. Sound scary yet?

         For those of you who have taken laboratory courses, you are most likely familiar with these:







         You have seen them, the standard pump/piston action pipettes you use to transfer liquid. Sometimes they have graduation to help you measure the precise amounts.

         Unfortunately, these were not always available for most scientists. For a long time, they had to transfer liquid via pipettes powered by the suction of their mouths. They worked very much like straws. What could go wrong?

         As it turns out, this practice caused many problems for scientists who worked in the labs. They ranged from infections to chemical harm. My instructor, who is now well into her seventies, talked about how hepatitis was not an uncommon. Heck, her successor, who completed my training, had his time with the practice as well. The thought of doing that makes me want to gag.

         Here are some photos from the glorious old days of mouth pipetting. Their sources are in the images and I will link you to the websites where I found them.










         Insanity, no? It's somewhat perplexing that this dangerous practice continued into the 70s.

         Are there questionable practices in the labs that are acceptable today? Not that I could think of on the top of my head. I'm sure somewhere down the road, we will learn about them.


Further Reading


1. Origins of Pipettes: Why Today's Scientists Don't Need to Use Their Mouths
2. Lab Tools: The History of the Pipette
3. Suck It: The Ins and Outs of Mouth Pipetting


The price of that wish ≒ a prelude to demise, a HIVE of souls ≒ moving VIBES

STEM stuff
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