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Swan necked glass retort, England, 1760-1870

A retort is used as a container for substances during the chemical processes of distillation and decomposition by heat. The substance is placed in the glass bulb which is then heated. The products of the reaction pass through the long, swan-like neck, which may be connected to other equipment. Retorts were also used in the preparation of drugs. Probably produced in England, this example is made from green glass and is 770 mm in length. It is shown here with a furnace (A630661).

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Glossary: retort

A vessel in which chemical substances are heated for distillation or decomposition. Usually made from glass.

Glossary: chemistry

The branch of science that studies substances which constitute matter with the aim of discovering their properties, how they react, and the uses and products of such reactions.

Glossary: decomposition

The slow disintegration of dead organic matter by chemical reaction into simpler elements.

Glossary: distillation

A technique to remove or separate components in a liquid mixture. It works because chemicals have different boiling points. Vapours produced by boiling are cooled and then collected when condensed.