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The chemistry component in the Yale Peabody Museum’s Division of Historical Scientific Instruments provides some of the more unique and bizarre items, including:

  • A bottle of protein (YPM catalog no. 7.12) imported from Germany by Professor Samuel A. Johnson in 1858. Research in this field was evidently not active at Yale, since the bottle has never been opened.
  • A bottle of sugar (YPM catalog no. 7.11) made from corn. Presented to the Sheffield Chemistry Laboratory by Peter Collier (Yale 1861) in 1879. Collier, who received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1866, was probably the University’s first doctoral student in chemistry. At the time of this gift he was Chief Chemist of the U.S. Department of Agricluture and was doing extensive research on sugar chemistry.
  • A bottle of kelp ashes (YPM catalog no. 29.1) sent from Normandy, France, by Gay Lussac to Benjamin Silliman around 1817. The label, written by Silliman, states that these ashes were used to extract the first sample of iodine ever prepared in the United States.
  • A set of 18 glass chemical jars (YPM catalog no. 29.3) on a wooden stand, used in Benjamin Silliman’s laboratory.

The Yale Peabody Museum’s collections are available to legitimate researchers for scholarly use. Loans are issued to responsible individuals at established institutions. Loans and access to the collection can be arranged through the Collections Manager.

Bottle of Kelp Ashes


YPM catalog no. 29.1.
Dated 1817.
Height 10 inches (25 centimeters).
Sent to Benjamin Silliman from Normandy, France, by Gay Lussac.

Glass Jars from Silliman’s Laboratory


YPM catalog no. 29.3.
Not dated; early 19th century.
Bottle height is 2.5 inches (6.35 centimeters).
Length of stand 8 inches (20 centimeters).