Some wars in science, P Frazer

Content: Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Address by Dr. Persifor Frazer
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IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
" S o m e Wars in Science" Address before the Society o f Colonial Wars in t h e C o m m o n w e a l t h o f Pennsylvania November 27, 1903 by Persifor Frazer P r i n t e d by o r d e r o f t h e Society January, 1 9 0 4 IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
Some W a r s in Science ADDRESS BEFORE THE SOCIETY OF COLONIAL WARS IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, NOVEMBER 2 7 , 1 9 0 3 by PERSIFOR FRAZER IN the history of the world there has never been so great a change in the customs a n d t h o u g h t of men as about the epoch which has been set as the latest at which our ancestors are permitted to have distinguished themselves sufficiently to qualify their descendants for membership in this Society ; a n d I h a v e t h o u g h t it m i g h t b e interesting to con sider some of the motives, methods, opinions, customs, and equipment of our forefathers, and to compare t h e m with o u r own. It will be granted that among the arts whose fundamental principles have been least revolutionized since the middle ot the eighteenth century, is W a r -- t h a t genteel accomplishment which our Association consecrates, and in which success is the universally honored passport to wealth, fame, and exclusive society. No improvements in arms or tactics will ever make men fight more bravely than Marlborough's army at Blenheim, yet we have excellent authority for the belief that not one in ten of his English contingent had the slightest idea of the object of the war, not to mention the still more difficult problem of Marlborough's real sympathies. But while it m a y be conceded that time cannot break that or m a n y earlier records for bravery and audacious generalship in a regular army, yet the resources of militia armies and their knowledge of the g a m e of war have been greatly increased s i n c e t h e first s i e g e of L o u i s b u r g in I 7 4 5 > w h i c h is o u r p a r t i c - IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
This feat is m o r e r e m a r k a b l e than t h e capture of .the Bastille. But a far better instance of the change referred to, as well as one m o r e in t h e line of m y w o r k , is that w h i c h has been produced in our notions of chemistry and physics. In p r e s u m i n g to bring before an audience of this kind questions of science of the profoundest import, I wish to say that I have done so just because they are of that character. T h e wider and deeper a problem, the greater number of men it must interest, and those problems with which I intend to deal are so wide and deep that they have interested, and do interest, all persons of every profession and calling. T h e universal interest of mankind in every important new discovery affords the surest ground for belief in a con s t a n t l y rising s t a n d a r d of e d u c a t i o n . T e r e n c e ' s " Homo sum et nil humane a me alienum puto " (I a m a m a n , a n d n o t h i n g that concerns m a n do I deem a matter of indifference to me), is consciously or unconsciously a guiding m a x i m with all cul tivated people. A n d again it is self-evident that no other kinds of ques tions than those reaching into the substratum of man's reason ing faculty, a n d t h r o u g h the top dressing of his m o r e or less vaguely conceived beliefs, prejudices, assumptions and creeds, can arouse sufficient interest to occasion wars, which are my theme. Furthermore, I must explain that in the limited time allotted to me I must treat these wars as the dramatists do, by leaving the battles to be imagined. It would be amusing, cer tainly, to recall the w o r d s in which s o m e venerated sage of the past has ridiculed propositions, then new, which have since been so incorporated into the very essence of our fundamental conceptions that it requires an effort to consider the objector as sane, not to speak of his being on other subjects a leader of t h o u g h t of his time. T h e progress of truth t o w a r d s accept ance is like that of the R u g b y football towards the goal posts. N o matter in what direction its advance, there will be found a IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
strong force opposing its carrier, and not without bruises and strains will he make his touch-down. So the denunciations, and sarcasms and disparagements ; the heart burns, and animosities which make up intellectual warfare have been suppressed in favor of a short sketch of the f o r w a r d m o v e m e n t o f t h e i d e a s w h i c h w e r e t h e casus belli. B u t let it not be imagined these battles were wanting. H o m e s have been disrupted through disputes on the relative merits of the Ptolcmean and Copcrnican Astronomy; Aristotelian and Baconian philosophy; Huttonian andWernerian Geology; Newtonian and Leibnitzian mathematics; Humean and Berkeleyan metaphysics, etc., etc. A n d similar battles will never cease so long as man continues to believe that he is better than his neighbor, or that any one man, thing, or principle contains all the good or all the bad. The earlier chemists regarded combustion as the essen tial phenomenon of chemistry, both because heat produced such profound changes in many bodies, and the majority of changes were accompanied b y heat, and also because when the ingenious phlogistic theory was conceived b y Becher (i635-'82) a n d p e r f e c t e d b y S t a h l (1660-1734) a n u m b e r o f remotely related phenomena, like that of solubility, came t o be recognized as dependent upon the phlogiston which a body contained. S t a h l in h i s " F u n d a m e n t a C h y m i a e , " p u b l i s h e d i n 1720, while he was Leibartzt to the King of Prussia, defines chem i s t r y a s t h e art o f r e s o l v i n g c o m p o u n d s i n t o t h e i r c o n s t i t u ents a n drecombining t h e constituents to again form t h e original orother compounds. All combustible bodies accord i n g t o h i m (i. e., s u l p h u r , c a r b o n , p h o s p h o r u s , a l c o h o l , s u g a r , resin, the oils, etc.), were compounds containing phlogiston (meaning " burnt ") combined with some other material ; and the grade of combustibility depended upon the amount of phlogiston combined ina body. T h e metals contained this constituent in varying quantity, and when subjected t o heat b e c a m e " calxes," which were often soluble in water, w h e r e a s IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
the more combustible the substance (sulphur, phosphorus, carbon, etc.) the less soluble it was. It was t h o u g h t that t h i s t h e o r y w a s p r o v e n b e c a u s e if p h l o g i s t o n or a n y s u b s t a n c e containing it were heated with the calx, the original substance reappeared. T h e pertinent question, " W h y is t h e weight of the dephlogisticated substance increased, and the compound w i t h p h l o g i s t o n tighter than t h e e s s e n t i a l c a l x ?" w a s a n s w e r e d b y the assertion that the phlogiston possessed the attribute of levity i n s t e a d of g r a v i t y . This so-called theory (merely an ingenious hypothesis) of chemical action is an instructive lesson as to several things. In the first place, considered together with the theory which displaced it, illustrates how two diametrically opposite suppositions, when pursued each on a single line without checks from any other line, may equally well explain a given phenomenon. It illustrates also the radical difference between the knowledge obtained through inductive processes and that alleged to have come from revelation. T h e former never pre t e n d s t o b e fixed a n d u n a l t e r a b l e , o r t h e w h o l e t r u t h of t h e subject. H o w could it when from the very nature of its acquirement only a limited number of facts can have been employed, and every day adds to the number which must be consistent with each other and with the theory ? If they be not consistent with each other there has been an error of observation, which must be found and corrected. If any single fact be not assimilable by the theory, the latter must be aban doned in favor of s o m e better. W h e n you read in the papers that " scientific men claim that this is or that cannot be so," be assured that you are reading the unauthorized statement of an ignoramus or a wilful perverter of the truth. Scientific men never assert or deny in this manner.* * For example : the Rev. Dionysius Lardner, L L . D . , F . R . S . , in a book entitled " The Steam Engine Familiarly Explained " (Carey & Hart, Fhila., 1 8 4 1 ) said that the steamboat of that time could not, in his judgment, carry coal for a journey of more than 2 , 0 0 0 miles, but added " we are on the brink of such improve ments as w i l l " * * " r e n d e r it available as a m e a n s of connecting the most distant parts of the earth." This guarded skepticism has been the delight of the IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
T h e character of Professor Stork in Mallock's " N e w Republic " is an absurd caricature, and bears no sort oi resemblance to J o h n Tyndall, w h o is said to have been its prototype.
W h e n ingenious guesses based like that of the phlogistic theory on insufficient data are dressed up in Sanford and
Merton style they b e c o m e pathetic. H e r e is a fragment of a little book printed in 1 8 0 6 by Jane Marcet, an admirer of Sir H u m p h r y Davy, who had attended his lectures at the Royal Institution. It gives part of a supposed conversation between
Mrs. B., a teacher, and two young ladies, Emily and Caroline. *********
" E m i l y . -- H o w do you obtain the oxy-muriatic acid ? " (Chlorine.)
" M r s . B.--In various w a y s ; but it m a y b e m o s t c o n v e n i e n t l y
obtained b y distilling liquid muriatic acid over o x y d of m a n g a n e s e ,
w h i c h s u p p l i e s the acid -with the additional
One part of the
acid being put into a retort, with two parts of the oxyd of m a n g a n e s e ,
a n d the heat of a lamp applied, the gas is soon disengaged, and m a y
b e r e c e i v e d over water, as it is b u t sparingly a b s o r b e d b y it. I h a v e
collected some in this jar."
" C a r o l i n e . -- I t is not invisible like the generality of g a s e s ; for it
is of a yellowish color."
" M r s . B . -- T h e m u r i a t i c a c i d e x t i n g u i s h e s flame, w h i l s t , o n t h e
c o n t r a r y , t h e o x y - m u r i a t i c m a k e s t h e flame l a r g e r , a n d g i v e s it a d a r k
red color. Can y o u account for this difference in the two acids ? "
" Emily.--Yes, I think so ; the muriatic acid will not supply the
flame w i t h t h e o x y g e n n e c e s s a r y f o r i t s s u p p o r t ; b u t "when this acid is
e n e m i e s o f s c i e n c e . It w a s m i s q u o t e d by t h e N e w Y o r k Herald o r i g i n a l l y t o
read as a prophecy against transatlantic navigation by steam. After numerous
refutations t h e S t . L o u i s Republic s i x t y y e a r s l a t e r s t a t e d " a great m a t h e m a
tician" h a d just d e d u c e d the impossibility of the transit w h e n the first s t e a m e r
glided into port. Finally the H o n . Carroll D . Wright, n o w President of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science, while Vice-President of
that body and chairman of Section I at the Washington meeting, December, 1 9 0 2 ,
declared that " a distinguished physicist " made this discouraging prophecy during
a l e c t u r e in P h i l a d e l p h i a o n t h e v e r y e v e n i n g of t h e arrival o f t h e first s t e a m e r
from Liverpool. In answer to an inquiry by the writer he said he had heard
this story related at a meeting by an eminent clergyman, now deceased, and
though the name of the " distinguished physicist " waa not given, Professor
Wright thought the fact was generally accepted.
P. F.
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furtker oxygenated,
it will part ·with its additional
quantity of oxygen
and in this zuay support
" Mrs. B . -- This is exactly the case ; indeed, the oxygen added to
the muriatic acid adheres so slightly to it that it is separated by mere
exposure to the sun's rays." (?) " This acid is decomposed also by com
bustible bodies, many of which it burns, and actually inflames, without
any previous increase of temperature."
"Caroline.--That is extraordinary, indeed. I hope you mean to
indulge us with some of these experiments ? "
"Mrs. B . -- I have prepared several glass jars of oxy-muriatic acid
gas for that purpose. In the first we shall introduce some Dutch gold
leaf. Do you observe that it takes fire?" etc., etc.
It is h a r d l y necessary to say that this supposed c o m p o u n d , " oxy-muriatic acid," about which they are talking is the ele ment chlorine, or to point out t h e humor of presenting these gross errors as if they were incontestably proven and easy t o explain in child-like language. W i t h Lavoisier's masterly destruction of the phlogistic theory, to which h e devoted half of t h e work and publications of h i s b u s y scientific life, t h e science of chemistry b e g a n , and it is one of Fate's ironies that h e obtained t h e two facts w h i c h c o m p l e t e d its o v e r t h r o w (i. e., t h e n a t u r e o f o x y g e n a s a c o n s t i t u e n t of t h e air, a n d t h e n a t u r e of t h e p r o d u c t of t h e union of oxygen with hydrogen), from two eminent scientific Englishmen, Priestley and Cavendish, who to the last days of their lives clung t o Stahl's theory as a fact long after it had ceased to be more than a memory. Priestley himself says in another connection: " W e m a y take a maxim so strongly for granted that the plainest evidence of sense will n o t entirely change a n d often hardly modify o u r persuasions, a n d t h e more ingenious a man is the more effectually h e is entangled in his errors; his ingenuity only helping him to deceive him self by evading t h e force of truth." M o d e r n r e a l c h e m i s t r y [z. e., t h e s t u d y o f m a t t e r i n i t s minutest subdivisions, force being merely incidentally con sidered, and only so far a s it changes t h e character (properties) of matter] dates from Lavoisier's demonstrations, a n d t h e
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greatest generalization thought to be established by his experi m e n t s w a s t h a t the sum of matter in the universe was fixed and constant and could neither be augmented nor diminished b y s o m u c h as the millionth of a milligram, however great the changes of portions of matter in appearance or character m i g h t seem to be. This war in chemistry may be likened to a war of inde pendence, by which the science blossomed into a sovereign science on equal terms with her older sisters ; but, true to the analogy with civil states, she was shortly to be subjected to an i n t e r n e c i n e w a r of m o r e t h a n fifty y e a r s ' d u r a t i o n ; a n d j u s t a s Europe was desolated by the thirty years war, during which the greater industries were paralyzed, material advance of civilization was checked, and doubt and distrust dried up the v e r y fountains of confidence which a r e necessary for civic life ; so here, too, during that period, in this promising new science, observers hastened to attach to their discoveries the assurance that they intended no inferences to be drawn as to ultimate or absolute condition of things. It would burden y o u too m u c h to recite the technical details of this civil war in chemistry, and I must restrict myself to general statements. J. J. Berzelius, w h o was the first to establish accurate atomic weights,--so accurate, indeed, that in spite of his im perfect apparatus and methods, his determinations can be cor rected to-day only in decimals,--propounded in 1 8 1 2 the electro-chemical theory, which led to his dualistic system. H e explained chemical action as an electric phenomenon, essentially consisting in the attraction of one b o d y b y another with a stronger electric polarity. H e says : " If these electro chemical conceptions are just, it follows that every chemical c o m p o u n d is dependent on two opposing forces, positive a n d negative electricity, and on these alone ; and that every com p o u n d must be composed of two parts, held together b y their neutral electro-chemical reactions," etc. Every compound consisted of two parts, one electro-positive and the other electro-negative. T h u s , sodium sulphide consisted of positive IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
sodium united with negative sulphur; soda sulphate, of posi tive soda with negative sulphuric acid; alum, of positive soda sulphate and negative alumina sulphate, etc.
On account of Berzelius' high merit all his results a n d theories were accepted without question by the world of chemists. If a n y m a n ever deserved this tribute it w a s Berzelius, b u t n o m a n ever did deserve it, and this blind devo tion led to an equally blind a b a n d o n m e n t of all the fruits of his well-earned victories just because in one particular place his splendid theoretical structure overhung the building line prescribed b y nature for all theorists.
A n d this is h o w it h a p p e n e d . Secure in his dualistic
electrical hypothesis, which explained all the facts then known
to him, he applied it to the organic compounds, regarding in
these a g r o u p of atoms of different elements combined with
carbon and nitrogen, as a radicle, and the equivalent of an
atom of an element. H e maintained that every combination
between two such radicles was dualistic ; having an electro
positive and an electro-negative part, a n d if in a n y new c o m
pound, obtained by substitution of one of these radicles b y
s o m e other radicle or atom of an element, the general p r o p
erties of t h e first c o m p o u n d were not entirely c h a n g e d , t h e
replacing radicle or a t o m m u s t be of t h e s a m e k i n d electri
c a l l y a s t h e r a d i c l e o r a t o m d i s p l a c e d , i. e., a p o s i t i v e m u s t
b e r e p l a c e d b y a p o s i t i v e , a n d 7>ice versa.
But in 1 8 3 9 t h e
French chemist Dumas prepared chloracetic acid from acetic
acid by substituting chlorine, one of the most strongly electro
negative of all elements, for h y d r o g e n , a typical electro-posi
tive element. Yet the properties of the two acids were
closely alike. No answer was possible except that dualism
did not represent t h e facts in all cases. T h i s , and the dis
covery that some of the atomic weights given b y Berzelius
were just twice what they should be,* spread alarm among
* T h e chemist will understand that this fact is not inconsistent with the statement above of the great accuracy of his atomic weight determinations, but was the result of mistaking the valence, or monad atom saturating power of these elements, an error unavoidable with the k n o w l e d g e available at that time. P. F,,
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even his warmest supporters. His own attempts to evade the conclusions only m a d e matters worse, and the effect upon c h e m i s t s w a s t h a t w h i c h w o u l d b e p r o d u c e d o n financiers b y t h e reported insolvency of t h e B a n k of E n g l a n d . T h e failure of Berzelius shut up the current coin of generalizations all over the world. Gmelin published his colossal dictionary of chemistry, using the word " e q u i v a l e n t s " instead of a t o m s , and this fashion of over-prudence having been set b y GayLussac, Liebig and Faraday, the whole chemical world for m o r e t h a n fifty y e a r s a v o i d e d t h e w o r d " a t o m " as if it w e r e h i g h treason. Y e t Berzelius was in all important parts of his philosophy right, and only erred in giving slightly less elas ticity to one part of his theory than he should have done. A n d the newest views of chemical c h a n g e sweep a w a y those of both Berzelius and his critics as only part of the truth ! U p o n the establishment of chemistry as the science of matter, physics became the study of force in the abstract, or as exerted on indefinitely small masses of matter without changing their properties ; or on a medium more tenuous than matter, namely, the ether. Both chemistry and physics maintained, each, a proud, progressive, and independent exist e n c e for nearly a century ; the one as a study of matter on a background of force, the other as a study of force on a back ground of the minutest subdivisions of matter and of ether ; at t h e end of which t i m e -- t h e p r e s e n t -- t h e two h a v e again so completely coalesced that it is impossible to trace a fixed b o u n d a r y between t h e m . T h i s is not saying that t h e t w o sciences are the same any more than the science of zoology and botany are the same, yet, concerning these latter just as n o c o m p e t e n t m a n w o u l d b e b o l d e n o u g h t o p r o f e s s t o fix a ·dividing line between animals and plants, so no competent man would profess to divide physical from chemical phenom ena. B o t h physics a n d chemistry have a d d e d h u n d r e d s of times the n u m b e r of exact data to the stores which each pos- IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
sessed in 1 7 5 0 . C h e m i s t r y s h o o k off magic w h i c h withered into child's play. Physics differentiated itself from mechanics as p o e t r y from statistics, and the c h a n g e s in t h e m o d e r n con ceptions of that science from those held by the most enlight ened of the periwigged ancestors to w h o m we owe our eligibil ity to m e m b e r s h i p in this h o n o r a b l e association of t h e descend ants of aristocratic exile head-breikers, are no less striking than we have seen those in chemistry to be. If combustion be considered the essential phenomenon of chemistry, heat, w h i c h is its principal result, m a y be said to be t h e essential p h e n o m e n o n , the m o n e t a r y basis, as it were, of physics. In a paper published in the R o y a l Transactions of 1 7 9 8 Count Rumford (our own countryman, born Benjamin T h o m p s o n in W o b u r n , Mass.) first a n n o u n c e d to the world t h e startling discovery that heat was not a caloric fluid. W h i l e superintending work at the Munich Arsenal he endeavored to learn the cause of the heat accompanying friction. His sum m a r y of the results is remarkable for its close reasoning and for the word with which it ends, which is the key to m o d e r n p h y s i c s a n d c h e m i s t r y ; a n d in fact at least t o all of t h e universe which is not thought, and m a n y of the ablest philoso phers think to that also. Alluding to the fact that t h e inexhaustible supply of heat, which was procurable from the continuous friction of two metallic surfaces, was incompatible with the theory which supposed every body to have stored in it a definite quantity of heat he goes on * * * " I t is h a r d l y n e c e s s a r y t o a d d t h a t a n y t h i n g w h i c h a n y insulated b o d y o r s y s t e m of b o d i e s c a n c o n t i n u e to f u r n i s h without limita tion c a n n o t p o s s i b l y b e a materialsubstance; a n d it a p p e a r s t o m e t o b e e x t r e m e l y difficult, if n o t quite impossible, t o forma n y distinct idea of a n y t h i n g capable of being excited and( c o m m u n i c a t e d in t h o s e experiments except it be MOTION." Sequin of France, Grove and Joule of E n g l a n d , M a y e r of G e r m a n y , a n d C o l d i n g of D e n m a r k , a n n o u n c e d t h e g e n e r a l d o c t r i n e of the intimate relation to each other of the various forces. Helmholtz, Holtzman, Clausius, Faraday, Thompson, Rankine, IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
1s Tyndall, and Carpenter in E u r o p e , and H e n r y and Leconte in this country, aided the progress of the generalization which culminated in the joint publication of works by Grove, H e l m holtz, Mayer, F a r a d a y , Liebig, a n d Carpenter in 1 8 6 5 called t h e " Correlation and Conservation of Forces." This w o r k produced an immense sensation at the time and was said, like several other works : (La Place's " Mйcanique Celeste," Dar win's " O r i g i n of Species," D a l t o n ' s law of chemical equiva lents, etc.), each in its day, to be the most important deliver ance of science in the c e n t u r y . F r o m the title it m a y be at once seen that t h e result claimed by these invaluable treatises was entirely analogous to that of t h e indestructibility of matter d e d u c e d from Lavoi sier's experiments. It concluded the indestructibility of force in spite of constant change of character. The result reached was that no force could ever be destroyed or affected in any other way than by a translation into another kind of force. A s a r e s u l t t h e n of t h e i n d e p e n d e n t d e v e l o p m e n t of chemistry and physics each reached the conclusion that its o w n s u b j e c t of i n v e s t i g a t i o n w a s e t e r n a l , fixed, a n d definite ; the two subjects being matter and force. T h e nineteenth century boasted of having established this. W e shall see how the Young Twentieth Century has respected this claim. T h e i n v e n t o r o f t h e b i n o m i a l t h e o r y , a n d of fluxions, t h e discoverer of the universal law of gravitation, and of the composite character of white light, in short, the peerless Sir Isaac Newton, announced the corpuscular theory of the origin of light and rejected that of Christian H u y g h e n s , improperly ascribed to Descartes, which explained light as a series of vibrations or undulations in a tenuous ethereal medium. The war between these two theories lasted nearly a century. Sir John Herschel, Mr. Airy, Dr. Young and others sided with the Hollander, as did Sir David Brewster in his article " Newton " in the P e n n y Cyclopaedia for 1 8 4 3 , but the author of the learned article on the " Undulatory IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
T h e o r y of L i g h t , " of that same edition and publication, after intimating that there were some phenomena difficult of expla nation by the undulatory, which were easily comprehended by the aid of the corpuscular assumption, and other phenomena perhaps impossible of explanation by the latter which were r e a d i l y a c c o u n t e d for b y t h e f o r m e r , finally s u m s u p t h e subject t h u s : " M u c h stress is laid on the a c c u r a c y with which the p h e n o m e n a of diffraction are accounted for on the undulatory hypothesis; but while there yet remains unex plained by that hypothesis so important a circumstance as the refrangibilities of light, which are satisfactorily accounted for on the corpuscular theory, and while our knowledge of the action of material particles on one another as well as the propagation of motion t h r o u g h elastic media is so imperfect, philosophers seem to be fully justified in suspending their judgment concerning the relative merits of the two rival theories." This was written sixty years ago, and at any time from thirty to three years ago it would have provoked a smile from t h e s t u d e n t s of p h y s i c s in t h e lower classes of a H i g h S c h o o l . H o w m a n y such would have t h o u g h t it a proof t h a t even a genius of all time like Sir Isaac may err once in a w h i l e . T h e o m n i s c i e n t c l a s s of didaskoloi w a s b u s i l y e n g a g e d in h a m m e r i n g t h e d o c t r i n e into its s c h o l a r s , as if it w e r e t h e easy and natural consequence of the reasoning of a child-- quite in the Jane Marcet style--that neither sight nor hearing c a n b e p r o d u c e d b y e m a n a t i o n s o r flying p a r t i c l e s , b u t b y w a v e s ; sight resulting from waves in e t h e r transverse to t h e d i r e c t i o n o f t h e l i g h t i m p u l s e , a n d r e s e m b l i n g t h e ripples in w a t e r ; while sound is caused b y longitudinal waves of compression and dilation in a i r back and forth along the line of direction of the sound impulse. It must have seemed strange to their pupils that Sir Isaac h a d been taken in by an appearance so easily c o m p r e h e n d e d b y such an e n o r m o u s n u m b e r of very c o m m o n p l a c e pur veyors of knowledge. IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
T h e following is a very condensed digest (with a few interpolations) of Sir William Crookes' great paper on " M o d ern V i e w s of Matter " before t h e Congress of Applied C h e m istry at Berlin, J u n e 5 , 1 9 0 3 . (Reprinted in "Science," June 26, 1903.) Sir H u m p h r y D a v y said in 1 8 0 9 : " If particles of gases were m a d e to move in free space with an almost infinitely great velocity t h e y might p r o d u c e the different species of rays so dis tinguished by their peculiar effects." Faraday ( 1 8 1 6 ) said: " T o d e c o m p o s e m e t a l s , to r e - f o r m t h e m , a n d t o r e a l i z e t h e o n c e a b s u r d notion of t r a n s m u t a t i o n , are the problems n o w given the chemist for solution." Prof. W . K . Clifford ( 1 8 7 5 ) remarked : " T h e r e is great reason to believe t h a t every material a t o m car ries u p o n it a s m a l l e l e c t r i c c u r r e n t if it does not entirely consist of this current." C r o o k e s ( 1 8 7 9 ) o b s e r v e d : " T h e p a r t i c l e s c o n stituting the cathode stream at high exhaustions of the vacuum tube are not solid, nor liquid, nor gaseous " * * * " but consist of s o m e t h i n g m u c h smaller t h a n the atom " * * * " t h e f o u n d a t i o n s t o n e s of w h i c h a t o m s a r e c o m p o s e d . " A n d these p h e n o m e n a are obtainable of all matter thus treated. In 1 8 8 6 Crookes announced his grand hypothesis of the g e n e s i s of t h e e l e m e n t s o u t of a f o r m l e s s fire-mist ( p r o t y l e ) more tenuous than any form of matter or perhaps even than e t h e r , b y t h e w o r k i n g of t h r e e f o r m s of e n e r g y , e l e c t r i c i t y , chemism, and heat; the result being an evolution analogous to t h a t a n n o u n c e d b y D a r w i n t h r o u g h t h e s u r v i v a l o f t h e most stable. T h o s e e l e m e n t s of l e a s t a t o m i c w e i g h t w e r e first f o r m e d ( H y d r o g e n I, H e l i u m 4 . 2 6 , L i t h i u m 7 , B e r y l l i u m 9, e t c . ) , a n d those of highest atomic weight last (Platinum 1 9 5 , Gold 197.3, Mercury 2 0 0 , etc.). Of the latter then known the highest were T h o r i u m with an atomic weight of 2 3 2 . 6 , and Uranium with an atomic weight of 2 3 9 . 6 . " W h a t comes after U r a n i u m ? " C r o o k e s a s k e d , a n d a n s w e r e d " t h e f o r m a t i o n of c o m pounds capable of being dissociated by our terrestrial re sources of heat." In 1 8 8 8 he suggested that the elementary IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
a t o m s t h e m s e l v e s m i g h t n o t b e n o w t h e s a m e as w h e n first g e n e r a t e d , i. e., t h a t t h e p r i m a r y m o t i o n s w h i c h c o n s t i t u t e the existence of the a t o m m i g h t slowly b e changing, a n d even the secondary motions which produce all the effects w e ran observe, heat, chemic, electric, etc., might be affected. Even the atoms are not eternal but share with all else decay and death. The atomic weights were not invariable quantities. I n 1891 h e p r o v e d that t h e s t r e a m of c a t h o d e rays near t h e negative pole are always negatively electrified, the other con tents of the tube being positively electrified. L e n a r d a n d R o e n t g e n (1893--95) s h o w e d t h e p h e n o m e n a outside the v a c u u m tube more remarkable than those inside, in producing phosphorescence, penetrating opaque substances, e t c . Z e e m a n (1896) s h o w e d t h a t a s p e c t r u m l i n e w a s c a u s e d by the motion of an elektron. Dewar found relative opacity to the Roentgen ray proportional to the atomic weights oi bodies. Becquerel showed that salts of uranium give emana tions which penetrate opaque substances, and affect a photo graphic plate intotal darkness. Mme. and M . Curie a n d Bemont demonstrated t h e existence of radio-active bodies which accompany the com pounds of uranium; and all these isolated facts were welded together by the discovery of RADIUM with its atomic weight of a b o u t 258. A c c o r d i n g t o C r o o k e s ' p r o p h e c y t h e s e g r e g a tions of protyle of greater atomic weight than uranium would dissociate, and this was about to be more than realized by the discoveries that thorium a n d uranium had already been doing this unknown to their investigators, and t h e n e w element radium was preeminent in this property. Radium causes soda glass to turn violet. It acts strongly on the skin through leather, paper a n d clothing, causing severe pains ; and pours out quantities of emanations. These emanations are of several kinds, and produce a separate kind, as follows : I . E l e k t r o n s . 1. M o v e w i t h a v e l o c i t y o f -r\ t o | t h a t o f l i g h t . 2. D e v i a b l e in a m a g n e t i c field. 3 . G r a d u a l l y IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
obstructed by collisions with air atoms to which they impart conducting powers. 4 . They turn corners. 5 . They canbe concentrated by mica cones into a bundle, and these produce p h o s p h o r e s c e n c e . 6. A n e l e k t r o n is a b o u t T^-Q t h e m a s s of a n a t o m of h y d r o g e n , o r o n e 3 0 , 0 0 0 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 0 0 0 , o o o o o o t h gram. 7 . E l e k t r o n s will affect a p h o t o g r a p h i c plate through 5 or 6 m m . of lead, and several inches of wood or a l u m i n i u m . 8 . T h e y m a k e a p h o t o g r a p h of a c l o s e d c a s e of instruments in three days. II. Ions. 1 . Emanations 1 0 0 0 times the energy of elektrons, a n d of enormous mass, moving with something like the velocity of light. 2 . T h e y a r e slightly deviable in t h e m a g n e t i c field, a n d t h e i r d e v i a t i o n i s o f t h e c o n t r a r y k i n d from that of t h e elektrons. 3 . T h e y render air a conductor. 4 . They are obstructed by the thinnest plate. 5 . They are material particles, indefinitely smaller than thechemical atoms, dissociated from their elektrons with which when combined they form radium, polonium, actinium, uranium, etc.
III. A n emanation recently discovered and only an nounced night before last (November 2 5 , 1 9 0 3 ) b y Sir William R a m s e y at a meeting of t h e L o n d o n Institution. T h e dis c o v e r y w a s p r i n t e d for t h e first t i m e i n t h e t e l e g r a p h i c n e w s of this morning's newspapers (Nov. 2 7 . I t is a heavy g a s w h i c h , a t first e x h i b i t i n g a l l t h e s p e c t r o s c o p i c p e c u l i a r i t i e s o f radium, slowly changes before t h e eyes of t h e observer (as it were) to a body identical with the element helium discovered in t h e atmosphere of t h e sun. A month's confinement in a glass vessel suffices for this complete change.
I V . ( X ) R O E N T G E N
R. These are ether waves
produced b y t h e collision of elektrons a n d ions with air atoms.
2 . T h e y a r e n o t a t a l l d e v i a b l e in t h e m a g n e t i c field. 3 . T h e y
are much more penetrating than the elektrons. 4 . A photo
graph of a closed case of instruments can b e taken b y them
in three minutes.
IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
O n e result of the s t u d y of r a d i u m ' s properties is to c a u s e the abandonment of the two-fluid theory of electricity in favor of the one-fluid theory of Franklin, which gives the coup de grace to Berzelius' dualism. T h e elektron is the atom of electricity. A t the rate the elektrons and ions are being constantly projected outward from radio-active metals Rutherford and S c u d d y estimate that one g r a m of u r a n i u m or thorium would lose one milligram in weight in 1 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 years. Radium, however, loses 1 milligram per g r a m in a y e a r ; therefore, t h e life of r a d i u m c a n n o t be m o r e t h a n o n e , or, allowing liberally for errors of observation, a few t h o u s a n d years ; and consequently the radium in some minerals cannot have existed as long as the minerals themselves, but must have been and must still be continually produced by radio active change, and must be continually changing into other elements and into--force.
T h i s continuous p o u r i n g out of emanations is not affected by a t e m p e r a t u r e of 4 5 0 ° C. maintained for several days, n o r d e s t r o y e d b y i m m e r s i o n in liquid air ( -- 1 9 0 0 ) . H e r e is a continuous stream of emanations being given out, and, accord ing to Count Rumford's reasoning, the emanations cannot be m a t t e r . B u t if n o t m a t t e r t h e y a r e n o t t r a n s v e r s e w a v e s o r ripples in ether, but they are the dislocated parts of which matter is composed ; and the splendid generalization of the indestructibility of matter crumbles.
The elektron appears as apparent mass, according to
Crookes, b y reason of its electrodynamic properties. H e
adds : " If we consider all forces of matter to be merely con
geries of elektrons the inertia of m a t t e r " (its distinguishing
a t t r i b u t e ) " would be explained
without any material
W h a t then becomes of the great fundamental law of chem
istry, said to have been established by Lavoisier, that the total
a m o u n t of m a t t e r in t h e u n i v e r s e is fixed a n d c o n s t a n t , w h e n ,
in point of fact, matter may be simply composed of " atoms "
of e l e c t r i c i t y o r f o r c e ? B u t w h e t h e r o r n o t t h e r e is any
matter independent of electricity (or force) the dissociation
IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
e m a n a t i o n s o f r a d i u m t r a n s f o r m it, a t l e a s t partly, i n t o a n o t h e r element and partly into force. It was Lord Kelvin (Sir William Thomson) who origi nally gave authority to Descartes' vortices by supposing each original vortex when set up to continue unchanged and unchangeable forever ; and to constitute the smallest unit of matter--the atom--which, combined with other similar vor tices, produced all bodies which we know. H e was said to have abandoned this view at the time when other chemistphysicists adopted it, b u t whether so or not this view is held by a numerous and increasing school. Prof. L a r m o r regards electricity as atomic in its nature, each a t o m b e i n g a centre of strain in t h e ether ; m a t t e r being clusters of those electrical Positive and Negative atoms or elektrons in orbital motion around each other. Prof. Osborne Reynolds' view is unique (Rede L e c t u r e June 1 0 , 1 9 0 2 , " O n an inversion of ideas as to the structure of the universe"). F o r ether he supposes a granular medium closely packed, with a density ten thousand times that of water. H e r e and there a grain is out of place p r o d u c i n g a strain. T h e sum of such occurrences h e calls " singular surfaces of misfit" which are wave-like. What we call " m a t t e r " are places where 'the medium which takes the p l a c e of e t h e r is least d e n s e . S o t h a t t h e h e a v i e r t h e b o d y the less is the mass of this medium which it contains ; which completely reverses our notions of things. W h e r e nothing at all existed the result to our senses would be apparently indefinitely heavy matter, according to this view. A t the present state of the war about the elements the pioneer minds to-day are seriously considering the theory that matter is naught b u t vortices, or ethereal vibrations of electrical energy.* A large n u m b e r of the occurrences we * It is worthy of note that in fields of research so separate as physics, c h e m istry, biology and metaphysics or philosophy, some of the ablest prosecutors of research are moving towards this conception of the oneness of matter and force, or, as a n e w worker (Ignatius Singer) calls all phenomena, persistence, resist ance and equalization. IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1
witness every d a y ; the rubbing of glass with silk, sunshine, rain, lightning, flame, waterfalls, ocean waves, all provoke the dissociation of t h e a t o m ; and, however slow the p r o cess may be, Sir William Crookes terminates his paper before the Berlin Congress by the speculation that in the e n d " p r o t y l e -- t h e f o r m l e s s fire-mist--may o n c e a g a i n p r e vail, and the hour hand of eternity will have completed one revolution." In speaking of these uprootings of old theories which were thought to be as eternal as the conceptions of time and space, I have not alluded to the battle which followed Dar win's work, supplemented and confirmed by Huxley, Ilaeckel, and many others, through which the doctrine of special crea tions of plants and animals has been permanently abandoned a n d in its s t e a d a chain of life h a s b e e n s h o w n , in H a e c k e l ' s recent book on the " Riddles of the Universe," to lead up from Crookes' protyle to the single organic cell, and from this by short and, in the main, traceable steps to " H o r n o s a p i e n s " or man. I h a v e o m i t t e d t h i s b e c a u s e t h e field c h o s e n , t h e c o n s i d eration of matter a n d force, embraces a w i d e r -- t h e widest possible--horizon, within which these other problems, perhaps including that of life itself, are m e r e features. B u t the pre ponderating tendency of scientific t h o u g h t in the smaller a s w e l l a s i n t h e l a r g e r field, a n d in fact in all fields, is t o w a r d Monism. O n e t h i n g , at once the cause and substance of all things material and not material ; matter, force, and thought. W e r e it not that t h e sublime w o r d has been e m p l o y e d for so many and such conflicting ideas, there could be no philo sophic objection to calling this A l 1--GOD. IRIS - LILLIAD - Universitй Lille 1

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