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A Brief History of the Early Centrifuge

One of the most used of all the various types of scientific laboratory equipment available today must be the centrifuge. You may think a centrifuge is not a complex piece of laboratory equipment, as it simply rotates various substances which will then be analysed, but this is unfortunately not the case. The evolution of the centrifuge over the years has proven to be immensely beneficial to the scientific and medical profession and these days one cannot imagine any chemistry laboratory without a centrifuge.

Early Centrifuges:

The very first documented centrifuge was created in the 1800’s by Antonin Prandtl who created a machine similar to a centrifuge to separate milk and cream. The concept of this early centrifuge was then further explored by Friedrich Miescher who is known to be one of the first individuals that used a centrifuge in a laboratory setting to separate organic matter.

Analytical Ultracentrifuge:

During the 1900’s the very first ultracentrifuge was created by Theodor Svedberg. This revolutionary piece of analytical equipment was able to reach astounding speeds which allowed Svedberg to make ground-breaking discoveries regarding the molecular weight of various proteins found in the body. He was also awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry in honour of this unique discovery.

Vacuum Ultracentrifuge:

A discovery by Edward Greydon Pickels which reduced the amount of friction created in a centrifuge lead to his contribution towards the creation of early vacuum ultracentrifuges. These centrifuges create a vacuum inside the apparatus which also helps to keep the temperature of the samples constant. Pickles also invented the first centrifuge that was powered with electricity and went on to co-establish a company called Spinco in the later 1900’s. The company Spinco created the first preparative centrifuge – a revolution at that time as it was able to reach a top speed of 40 000 revolutions per minute.


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