Laboratory glassware refers to a variety of equipment used in scientific work, and traditionally made of glass. Glass can be blown, bent, cut, molded, and formed into many sizes and shapes, and is therefore common in chemistry, biology, and analytical laboratories. Many laboratories have training programs to demonstrate how glassware is used and to alert first–time users to the safety hazards involved with using glassware.
The history of glassware dates back to the Phoenicians who fused obsidian together in campfires making the first glassware. Glassware evolved as other ancient civilizations including the Syrians, Egyptians, and Romans refined the art of glassmaking. The art of glassmaking in 16th century Venice was refined to the point intricate shapes could be made. Some time before the turn of the 19th century laboratory glass manufacture from soda lime started in Germany. Most laboratory glassware was manufactured in Germany up until the start of World War I. Before World War I, glass producers in the United States had difficulty competing with German laboratory glassware manufacturers because laboratory glassware was classified as educational material and was not subject to an import tax. During World War I, the supply of laboratory glassware to the United States was cut off.
In 1915 Corning Glassworks developed borosilicate glass, which was a boon to the war effort in the United States. Though after the war, many laboratories turned back to imports, research into better glassware flourished. Glassware became more immune to thermal shock while maintaining chemical inertness. Further important technologies impacting the development of laboratory glassware included the development of polytetrafluoroethylene, and a drop in price to the point laboratory glassware is, in some cases, more economical to throw away than to re-use.