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The University of Southampton

Southampton glassblowers make a baby

Published: 19 February 2013
Paul Frampton

University of Southampton scientific glassblower Lee Mulholland has been commissioned to make a hollow glass baby to demonstrate experiments. Lee’s predecessor, the late Mike Caplin MBE, made the first model 30 years ago but it shattered in transit during a flight to Berlin. The so-called Bobbitt baby had been used by Professor David Phillips of Imperial College in his lectures to illustrate the treatment of neo-natal jaundice with blue light.

It will take around ten days for Lee to make the baby; he will create the limbs, head and trunk separately then join them together. "We normally make complex scientific glassware for University academics and external customers, so it will be a challenge to make a baby," he says. "The legs must be able to contain 400ml of liquid for the experiment, but we can be more creative with the rest of the body."

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David explains: "It was terribly sad to find that my trusty old friend hadn't survived the journey. Bobbitt had been a key part of my demonstration lectures over the years and he had delighted many thousands of people, all the while teaching them about the important role of chemistry in medicine.

"We called him Bobbitt after the unfortunate gentleman in the USA who had his appendage cut off by his wife when she discovered he had been unfaithful. In the past, the most frequent breakage of the baby had been in that nether region because the stopcock broke off but sadly this time he was beyond repair."

David plans to name the new baby Mike, in honour of Mike Caplin who retired in 2005.

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