Station: [6] A – Alembik

  • Glasmuseum Wertheim


Even alchemists from antiquity knew the advantages of glass for medicine, chemistry and the natural sciences: it is odourless, acid and alkali proof, transparent and easy to clean. And it is these properties that make glass an indispensable commodity for industry, technology and medicine today.


The Alembik was once one of an alchemist’s most important pieces of equipment. These early „chemists,“ were concerned with producing gold or transforming common metals into gold and silver. They were searching for a particular tincture, that they called „the philosopher’s stone.“ Today, chemists would refer to it as a catalyst. In their numerous transformation attempts distillation, extraction and other types of apparatus were essential tools. The „Alembik“, or „al-anbiq“, in Arabian, meaning receptacle or bowl, was one such distillation apparatus. Substances could be heated in it and then cooled and separated.


The invention of the „Alembik“ is attributed to the Arabs who refined the process of distillation, already used during antiquity, in the 9th or 10th century. They put a domed lid with an internal collection groove above the distillation flask containing the essence to be distilled where the condensate collected before it flowed out of a tube mounted on the side into a collection container. The name „Alembik“ was originally used to describe the distillation lid only, but over the years the name has come to refer to the whole piece of apparatus: the distillation flask, domed lid and collection bottle.