Until recently, Kipp's three chambered apparatus for generating hydrogen sulfide on demand, was a familiar tool in qualitative chemical analysis. Most older chemists will have used Kipp's apparatus during their undergraduate practicals. Its inventor and the circumstances under which Kipp built his first gas generator are less well known.
Petrus Johannes Kipp — to his friends probably Peter, or Pieter — was a Dutch pharmacist born at Utrecht in 1808. After having passed his exam in 1829, he was officially admitted as a pharmacist in his native province. In contrast to university-based medicine, before 1877 Dutch pharmaceutical examinations had no national standing, a result of the federal nature of the Dutch Republic in the 17th and 18th centuries. So, when Kipp in 1830 bought an existing pharmacy shop in the town of Delft — which was in a different province — he had to pass another examination in front of a "Provincial Medical Commission".
Kipp was typical of the leading pharmacists of his generation. During the first half of the 19th century pharmacy was in a severe crisis, in the Netherlands as well as in other European countries. In Delft, and in many other towns, there were far too many pharmacies to ensure a stable financial income for its owners. The reaction to this situation was twofold. Many pharmacists engaged in other businesses in order to raise their income. Kipp is a good example. In 1842 King William II founded at Delft the Royal Academy for Civil Engineers and Merchants (now Delft Technical University). The next year, a local physician, Carel Frederik Donnadieu (1812-1858), a friend of Kipp, was appointed professor of chemistry. Between 1844 and 1850 Kipp earned some money by translating several German textbooks into Dutch, to be used at the Royal Academy, including Wöhler's textbook of organic chemistry, and Plattner's textbook on the use of the blow-pipe. Fresenius' books on qualitative and quantitative analysis, as well as Friedrich Köhler's industrial chemistry, were translated by Donnadieu himself. Next to his work as a translator, Kipp supplemented his income by gradually building up a wholesale business in laboratory chemicals and scientific instruments between 1830 and 1853. During the 1830s and 1840s the pharmacy shop probably was Kipp's most important source of income, but after he published an instrument catalogue in 1850, the selling of imported French and German scientific instruments became increasingly important. As a result, he moved to new premises in 1853.
Several pharmacists were active in reform movements that tried to raise the scientific level of pharmacy (in order to, indirectly, reduce the number of newly admitted pharmacists, as well as to increase the charges pharmacists could make). Improvement of chemical training and the raising of skills in analytical chemistry played crucial roles in this respect. In 1842, Kipp was one of the founding members of the Nederlandsche Maatschappij ter Bevordering der Pharmacie (Dutch Society for the Advancement of Pharmacy). Two years earlier he had been appointed as a member of the Delft Municipal Medical Commission. In this role he carried out many chemical analyses for the municipal authorities: lamp oil for street lanterns, drinking water, food adulteration, and the like.
This was the context in which Kipp invented his well-known apparatus. Following a German publication of 1934, several authors have asserted that Kipp's apparatus appeared about 18601. With respect to the large scale introduction onto the market this might well be true, but the date should not be confused with the year of the invention of Kipp's gas generator. After a careful study of archival sources, Tutein Nolthenius discovered in 1943 that Kipp had published in 1844 two papers on different designs of his apparatus in an obscure journal, Tijdschrift voor Handel and Nijverheid (Journal for Trade and Industry), edited by Donnadieu. Tutein Nolthenius found offprints of Kipp's papers in the Delft municipal archives, but was unable to trace copies of the journal itself. In 1970, Snelders obviously had discovered the journal in one of the Dutch libraries2 (published in French in 1972), and today the computerised National Central Catalogue (NCC) reveals that there are no less than three Dutch libraries that have a holding of this journal.
In 1842, as part of a debate in Holland on the chemical analysis of arsenic, Kipp published his experiments on the detection of arsenic in the liver and kidneys of rabbits. In these experiments he used the apparatus for the generation of hydrogen developed in 1836 by the English chemist James Marsh (1790-1846). Kipp was dissatisfied with Marsh" apparatus, as the evolution of hydrogen could not totally be stopped at will, and therefore developed his own design. He immediately saw the advantages of his apparatus for qualitative inorganic analysis which used hydrogen sulfide, and published his draft design in 18443. Kipp's first apparatus, made by a German mechanic and glassblower — Geissler, who lived in The Hague — was very fragile. Therefore the same year he a designed a more robust version — also made by Geissler — which probably borrowed aspects of an apparatus for generating carbon dioxide developed by John Mervin Nooth (1750-1828) in 1775. It became the prototype of all later versions of Kipp's apparatus.
After Kipp's death in February 1864, his widow and two of his sons, A. J. (Anton) and W. A. (Willem), continued his business under the firm of "P. J. Kipp & Zonen [Sons]". Willem was responsible for the pharmacy shop, and Anton for the trade in laboratory chemicals and scientific instruments. The manufacture of instruments only occurred on rare occasions. The import of foreign instruments was far more important. This situation changed in 1880, when Anton Kipp founded a large workshop for the making of instruments, headed by the Dordrecht physicist and instrument maker Jan Willem Giltay (1851-1929). In 1887 the company was split into two parts. The pharmacy shop continued as the firm of "W. A. Kipp", and the instrument business as "P. J. Kipp & Zonen, J.W. Giltay Opvolger" (P.J. Kipp & Sons, J.W. Giltay Successor). Under Giltay's successor O. A. Ankersmit (1885-1956) the instrument business was incorporated in 1917 as "Instrumentenfabriek en -handel v/h P. J. Kipp & Zonen." In 1931 the trading department was merged with another Dutch instrument supplier firm, G. B. Salm, and continued as "Salm & Kipp". From that date Kipp & Zonen concentrated completely on the sale of scientific and medical instruments manufactured in its own workshops. Several successful new instruments were developed in close cooperation with Dutch university departments (esp. Utrecht, Delft, Groningen).
Today, all three businesses that grew out of the activities of Peter Kipp still exist: the Delft pharmacy of W. A. Kipp, the trading company Salm & Kipp (now at Breukelen), and the Delft instrument makers Kipp & Zonen. The latter company was taken over by the large Dutch instrument firm Enraf Nonius in 1970, which sold Kipp to the Canadian company SCI-TEC Instruments in 1996. In June 2000 the shareholders of SCI-TEC Instruments decided that the name of the entire company should be changed into Kipp & Zonen Inc., in order to "capitalize on Kipp & Zonen's superior and long term reputation for high quality scientific instruments". Kipp's apparatus was chosen as the logo of the new Canadian-Dutch company (which now specialises in meteorological and environmental instruments). A clearer indication the fame of Kipp's apparatus could hardly be found.
Bibliography: A. Tutein Nolthenius, "Petrus Johannes Kipp (1808-1864). Uitvinder van het "Kipp"-toestel voor automatische gasontwikkeling", De Natuur 63 (1943), 29-43; [W. A. Smeaton], "Petrus Jacobus [sic] Kipp, 1808-1864", Journal of the Royal Institute of Chemistry 88 (1964), 185; [O. A. Ankersmit, et al.], Geschiedenis Kipp & Zonen, 1830-1965 (published by the company: Delft 1965); H.A.M. Snelders, Le pharmacien P. J. Kipp (1808-1864) et son appareil", Revue d"Histoire de la Pharmacie 21 (1972), 3-15; W. Winters, P. J. Kipp, t.g.v. 150 jarig jubileum Delft (published by the author: Delft 1980); http://www.labwereld.nl (Salm & Kipp); http://www.kippzonen.com (Kipp & Zonen).
1. Cf. Heinrich Rheinboldt, "Über den Erfinder des Kippschen Gasentwicklungapparates", Zeitschrift für den physikalischen und chemischen Unterricht 47 (1934), 162-163; Annelore Fischer in: W. R. Pötsch et al., Lexikon bedeutender Chemiker (Thun/ Frankfurt a/M, 1989), pp. 235-236.
2. H. A. M. Snelders, "De Delftse apotheker en chemicus Petrus Johannes Kipp (1808-1864)", Scientiarum Historia 12 (1970), 79-92.
3. [P. J. Kipp], "Beschrijving van eenen toestel, waarin men bestendig zwavelwaterstof-gaz in voorraad kan houden", Tijdschrift voor Handel en Nijverheid 1 (1844), 100-102.
second apparatus of 1844 for generating hydrogen or hydrogen sulfide. Small
pieces of metal or. iron sulfide, are introduced in the middle chamber
C, and an acid in the lowest chamber via the opening in A. Production of
hydrogen, or. hydrogen sulfide, starts as soon as the acid reaches metal,
or sulfide, at the bottom of C. When the cock D is closed the pressure
rises and the acid is pushed up through the glass tube to chamber A. The
reaction and the generation of gas then stop automatically. Tijdschrift
voor Handel en Nijverheid 1 (1844), 229-230.