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Victorian device for producing carbonated water

The gasogene (or gazogene or seltzogene) is a late Victorian device for producing carbonated water. It consists of two linked glass globes: the lower contained water or other drink to be made sparkling, the upper a mixture of tartaric acid and sodium bicarbonate that reacts to produce carbon dioxide. The produced gas pushes the liquid in the lower container up a tube and out of the device. The globes are surrounded by a wicker or wire protective mesh, as they have a tendency to explode.[1]

The earliest occurrence of the word noted in the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1853, quoting a reference in Practical Mechanic’s Journalon “Gaillard and Dubois’ ‘Gazogene’ or Aerated Water apparatus”.[2]

In popular culture A gasogene is mentioned as a residential fixture at 221B Baker Street in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story “A Scandal in Bohemia”: “With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an armchair, threw across his case of cigars, and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner.” One is also mentioned in “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone”. The device plays a key role in Bernard Shaw’s 1905 comic play Passion, Poison, and Petrifaction, Or The Fatal Gazogene.[3] The word is also used in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s novel Brimstone, published in 2005, on page 106.[4] A gasogene is mentioned, on page 13, as being in the forensic laboratory of Dr. Kingsley, consultant forensic examiner of Scotland Yard in the 2012 fiction book The Yard.[5]