Saturday, 6 July 2013

Ceramic Water Filters

I learned about ceramic water filters from my grandfather when I was a teenager, in the 1970s. He showed me his ceramic water filter in his kitchen at home in Minden Heights. He explained its workings and how it trapped bacteria but not viruses. I was amazed that such a device was that useful.

I visited the Baba & Nyonya Museum in Jonker Street, Malacca on 4 July 2013 and saw two ceramic water filters. One was the Slack & Brownlow circulating filter from Gorton, Manchester and the other was the Pasteur TM Chamberland Filter (patent) by J. Defries & Sons LD, 147 Houndsditch, London E.C. I googled and found a bit more about each filter.

Slack & Brownlow Ltd circulating filter from Gorton, Manchester

From Tonbridge Historical Society website
At a time when safe drinking water was less readily available, small-scale purification equipment was much in demand, particularly in the less developed parts of the world. Slack and Brownlow Ltd made thousands of water filters like this one at their Town Mills factory in Tonbridge, marketing them as ‘a safeguard against cholera, typhoid and kindred water borne diseases’.
Slack and Brownlow began making water filters in Manchester in the mid-19th century and moved south to Tonbridge in 1921 to be nearer the docks, since much of their output was exported to hot countries. 

Links: (historical brochure) (old publication re filter) (images of ceramic water filters) (digital library, text of 1887)
- discusses filtration of water and quality of filtered water of the town in 1887. An excerpt is shown below:

The experiments in question have been obtained by Dr. Plagge, of the Hygienic Institute of Berlin, who published his results last autumn before the Public Health Section of the German Association of Naturalists and Physicians. Dr. Plagge has examined a great variety of filters viz. : (1.) Carbon filters. (2.) Stone and sand filters. (3.) The spongy iron filter. (4.) Adaptor filters of several kinds. (5.) The porous earthen filters of Chamberland (Paris), Olschewsky (Berlin). and Hesse (Schwartzenburg). (6.) 77" Asbestos filters of Breyer (Vienna), Hesse, Arnold & Schirmer (Berlin). In experimenting with these various forms of filter, Dr. Plagge found — (1.) That the carbon filters not only admitted of the free transmission of micro-organisms, but that in some cases the number of microbes in the filtrate greatly exceeded that in the unfiltered water; thus increase the minimum water yielded of  68 colonies per cubic centimetre. 

The Slack & Brownlow 'Health' Water Filter when in use
Slack & Brownlow ceramic water filter and lid

Pasteur trade mark, Chamberland Filter (patent), J. Defries & Sons LD, 147, Houndsditch, London, E.C.


From Wikipedia:

Charles Chamberland (12 March 1851 – 2 May 1908) was a French microbiologist from Chilly-le-Vignoble in the department of Jura who worked with Louis Pasteur.
Charles Chamberland (1851-1908) worked with  Louis Pasteur in France

In 1884 he developed a type of filtration known today as the Chamberland filter or Chamberland-Pasteur filter, a device that made use of an unglazed porcelain bar. The filter had pores that were smaller than bacteria, thus making it possible to pass a solution containing bacteria through the filter, and having the bacteria completely removed from the solution. He was also credited for starting a research project that led to the invention of the autoclave device in 1879.
He worked with Pasteur and came up, by chance, with a vaccine for chicken cholera. He went away on holiday, forgetting to inject the disease into some chickens as he had been told. When he came back he saw the jar of bacteria sitting on the side and thought he would inject it into the chickens anyway. To his amazement they did not die. He reported this to Pasteur, who told him to inject a fresh form into the chickens, they still did not die. He then went on to injecting the fresh form into new chickens, they did die. He had found a vaccine. They had also discovered that a weakened form of a disease can act as a vaccine.
  1. Horzinek MC (1997). "The birth of virology". Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 71 (1–2): 15–20. doi:10.1023/A:1000197505492. PMID 9049014. 
  2. Norn, Svend; Kruse Poul R, Kruse Edith (2006). "On the history of injection". Dansk medicinhistorisk årbog (Denmark) 34: 104–13. ISSN 0084-9588. PMID 17526154.
  3. "Charles Chamberland (1851–1908)". Repères chronologiques (in French).