The Original Micropipette

The micropipette was invented in 1957 at University of Marburg, Germany by postdoc Heinrich Schnitger. Frustrated by repetitive pipetting of small volumes using glass micropipettes, Schnitger developed a prototype with a spring-loaded piston and a removable plastic tip for containing liquid. All the major features of the present-day micropipettes were incorporated into the prototype, shown above, which was patented in 195

Jan 1, 2006
Martin Klingenberg

The micropipette was invented in 1957 at University of Marburg, Germany by postdoc Heinrich Schnitger. Frustrated by repetitive pipetting of small volumes using glass micropipettes, Schnitger developed a prototype with a spring-loaded piston and a removable plastic tip for containing liquid.

All the major features of the present-day micropipettes were incorporated into the prototype, shown above, which was patented in 1957. At the bottom of the micropipette a small piston moves in an air-tight bore. Removable plastic tips are fitted to the cone-shaped end. Due to an air buffer, no liquid comes in touch with the piston. The volume is defined by a lower and upper fixed or adjustable stop on the spring-loaded piston. For the complete release of the liquid, increased pressure is applied, which presses down a second spring supporting the lower stop.

Simple, elegant and effective, the micropipette revolutionized handling of small liquid volumes. By enabling rapid micro-volume transfer, it transformed biochemical, medical, molecular and cell biological work and has became the most widely-used device in biological science.

Martin Klingenberg is Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Physiological Chemistry at the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany.
mklingenberg@the-scientist.com

<figcaption> Credit: Courtesy University of Munich</figcaption>
Credit: Courtesy University of Munich