Break out the beakers (and other science-y stuff) to celebrate World Laboratory Day this April 4. Observed to celebrate labs in all their glorious forms — from industrial labs. to government and military-led labs. to ones inside educational institutions, and even spacecraft — World Laboratory Day highlights how these controlled spaces have benefited mankind since times immemorial. That, and the fact that lab workers, researchers, and many others are also honored on this day, makes this event special.
History of World Laboratory Day
Laboratories have existed since ancient times, although they might not resemble the labs we all picture today. These labs ranged from anything involving home setups to alchemist workshops and often included the preparation of medicine. The oldest lab the world has seen (till now) belonged to the famous ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and scientist Pythagoras (570 B.C. to 490 B.C.). He reportedly used this lab to study his theories on tones of sound and vibrations of strings.
Of course, the term ‘laboratory’ was not used in exactly this context. The Latin root of ‘laboratory’ — ‘laboratorium,’ meaning ‘exertion, effort, or work’ — had been used since medieval times but only related to actual work or tasks. It only took a version of the meaning as we all know it in the late 16th century, gradually referring to specialized workshops of alchemists and apothecaries by the next century.
The 19th century ushered in a new era of study. Fields of science — chemistry, physics, biology — began to recognize the need for research and labs. Researching, which was once primarily a solo endeavor, was now increasingly done in teams. In this period, specialized architecture was also being designed to house such centers of learning and research. The laboratory was now being transformed into a central institution for various educational pursuits.
With the Second World War, research now became a major focus across countries. The Second World War pushed science and research to new heights across the world, which increased the scope of laboratories like never before. New equipment, methods, and devices were designed. Many countries like Germany, Switzerland, China, and the U.S. developed large-scale research laboratories responsible for changing the world, and some of these are still standing today.
While the origins of this holiday are as yet a mystery, its purpose is crystal clear — honor these great spaces of knowledge and innovation and the people who work within.
World Laboratory Day timeline
Alexander Graham Bell wins the Edison Volta Prize and its prize money; he builds Bells Labs as a premier private research lab globally, contributing to radio astronomy, programming languages, and more.
Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' introduces the world to a spookier lab, one where anything is possible; it has been pictured and dramatized in countless pop culture references ever since.
Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt paints the French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur in a lab setting — a bottle filled with some solid in one hand and a note in the other.
Researchers stumble upon a below-the-surface alchemical lab believed to be owned by a 16th-century Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II; it is preserved and kept in a museum in Prague.
World Laboratory Day FAQs
When is Laboratory Professionals Week?
Laboratory Professionals Week was founded by the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine and is held each year in the last full week of April.
What are some types of laboratories?
Some common labs include diagnostic laboratories, hospital laboratories, clinical laboratories, research laboratories, and more.
Who are laboratory professionals?
People working in various types of laboratories are given various designations but sometimes come under the umbrella of laboratory professionals.
World Laboratory Day Activities
Visit a laboratory
Got any labs around you offering special tours and visits? Take them up on their offer. Learn more about how the lab functions and what work they do.
Build a little home lab
Learn (and teach) that science, research, and experimentation can be fun too. Pick any topic of your choice — examples could be making an ant farm, creating slime, raising plants, and so much more — and go crazy with the lab work. You can also check out some helpful tips online.
Spread the lab cheer
If you run into a person who works in a lab, make sure to wish them a very happy World Laboratory Day. Make sure to thank them for their remarkable contributions.
5 Incredible Laboratories From Around The World
A castle-like laboratory
The 16th-century Uraniborg was situated on an island between Zealand and Sweden and had three separate dedicated spaces — the top floor for observing the sky, the lower for mathematics, and the cellar for alchemy.
A famous physics lab
The Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) studies every observable particle in the universe using the biggest particle accelerator in the world.
A lab that preserves fossils
The U.S.'s Argonne National Laboratory uses X-rays to help scientists and paleontologists study dinosaur bones without harming their fossils.
One of the largest research organizations
The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has published so many research papers that it came first among the world's research organizations twice, in 2014 and the following year.
Sixty-nine institutes in one
Germany's Fraunhofer Society operates all across the country and is renowned for its work with the MP3 format and the popular MPEG-4 video format.
Why We Love World Laboratory Day
Laboratories are scientific wonders
Whacky ideas, creative concepts, and far-fetched theories were first tested inside labs. If they didn't have labs to experiment and conduct research in, we probably would not have vaccinations, penicillin, or clean drinking water.
Products from labs have helped the world
Think about the telephone, the first medicine, food dyes, and computers. Every invention that profoundly affected the world and how people lived in it has come from some type of laboratory.
It puts more knowledge out into the world
Apart from products, laboratories working on various new scientific theories and concepts encourage people to think differently. The results from these lab experiments stretch the imagination and push people to accept brand new possibilities, too, bringing all of us closer to breakthroughs across various disciplines.
World Laboratory Day dates