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composed of atoms, on whose magnitude, density, and form, their nature and qualities depend; and, as these qualities are unchangeable, the ultimate particles of matter must be incapable of wear-the same now as when created.
The size of the ultimate particles of matter must be small in the extreme. Organised beings, possessing life and all its functions, have been discovered so small, that a million of them would occupy less space than a grain of sand. The malleability of gold, the perfume of musk, the odour of flowers, and many other instances might be given of the excessive minuteness of the atoms of matter. Supposing the density of the air at the surface of the earth to be represented by unity, Sir John Herschel has shown that, under any hypothesis as to its atoms, it would require a fraction having at least 1370 figures in its denominator to express its tenuity in the interplanetary space; yet the definite proportions of chemical compounds afford a proof that divisibility of matter has a limit. The cohesive force, which has been the subject of the preceding considerations, only unites particles of the same kind of matter; whereas affinity, which is the cause of chemical compounds, is the mutual attraction between particles of different kinds of matter, generally producing a compound which has no sensible property in common with its component parts except that of their combined gravity, as, for example, water, which is a compound of oxygen and hydrogen gases. It is merely a result of the electrical state of the particles, chemical affinity and electricity being only forms of the same power. In most cases it produces electricity, as in the oxidation of metals and combustion, and in every case without exception heat is evolved by bodies while combining chemically; and as he at isan expansive force, chemical action is changed into mechanical expansion, but it is not known in this case why heat is produced, nor the manner in which the particles act.
It is a permanent and universal law in vast numbers of unorganised bodies that their composition is definite and invariable, the same compound always consisting of the same elements united together in the same proportions. Two substances may indeed be mixed; but they will not combine to form a third substance different from both, unless their component particles unite in definite proportions, that is to say, one part by weight of one of the substances will unite with one part by weight of the
other, or with two parts, or three, or four, &c., so as to form a new substance; but in any other proportions they will only be mechanically mixed. For example, one part by weight of hydrogen gas will combine with eight parts by weight of oxygen gas, and form water; or it will unite with sixteen parts by weight of oxygen, and form a substance called deutoxide of hydrogen; but, added to any other weight of oxygen, it will produce one or both of these compounds mingled with the portion of oxygen or hydrogen in excess. The law of definite proportion established by Dr. Dalton, on the principle that every compound body consists of a combination of the atoms of its constituent parts, is of universal application, and is in fact one of the most important discoveries in physical science, furnishing information previously unhoped for with regard to the most secret and minute operations of nature, in disclosing the relative weights of the ultimate atoms of matter. Thus an atom of oxygen uniting with an atom of hydrogen forms the compound water; but, as every drop of water however small consists of eight parts by weight of oxygen and one part by weight of hydrogen, it follows that an atom of oxygen is eight times heavier than an atom of hydrogen. In the same manner sulphuretted hydrogen gas consists of sixteen parts by weight of sulphur and one of hydrogen; therefore an atom of sulphur is sixteen times heavier than an atom of hydrogen. Also carbonic oxide is constituted of six parts by weight of carbon and eight of oxygen; and, as an atom of oxygen has eight times the weight of an atom of hydrogen, it follows that an atom of carbon is six times heavier than one of hydrogen. Since the same definite proportion holds in the composition of a vast number of substances that have been examined, it has been concluded that there are great differences in the weights of the ultimate particles of matter. Although Dalton's law is fully established, yet instances have occurred from which it appears that the atomic theory deduced from it is not always maintained. M. Gay Lussac discovered that gases unite together by their bulk or volumes, in such simple and definite proportions as one to one, one to two, one to three, &c. For example, one volume or measure of oxygen unites with two volumes or measures of hydrogen in the formation of water.
Dr. Faraday has proved, by experiments on bodies both in solution and fusion, that chemical affinity is merely a result of
the electrical state of the particles of matter. Now it must be observed that the composition of bodies, as well as their decomposition, may be accomplished by means of electricity; and Dr. Faraday has found that this chemical composition and decomposition, by a given current of electricity, is always accomplished according to the laws of definite proportions; and that the quantity of electricity requisite for the decomposition of a substance is exactly the quantity necessary for its composition. Thus the quantity of electricity which can decompose a grain weight of water is exactly equal to the quantity of electricity which unites the elements of that grain of water together, and is equivalent to the quantity of atmospheric electricity which is active in a very powerful flash of lightning. This law is universal, and of that high and general order which characterises all great discoveries. Chemical force is extremely powerful. A pound of the best coal gives when burnt sufficient heat to raise the temperature of 8086 pounds of water one Centigrade degree, whence Professor Helmholtz of Bonn has computed that the magnitude of the chemical force of attraction between the particles of a pound of coal and the quantity of oxygen that corresponds to it, is capable of lifting a weight of 100 pounds to the height of 20 miles.
Dr. Faraday has given a singular instance of cohesive force inducing chemical combination, by the following experiment, which seems to be nearly allied to 'the discovery made by M. Dæbereiner, in 1823, of the spontaneous combustion of spongy platinum (N. 171) exposed to a stream of hydrogen gas mixed with common air. A plate of platinum with extremely clean surfaces, when plunged into oxygen and hydrogen gas mixed in the proportions which are found in the constitution of water, causes the gases to combine and water to be formed, the platinum to become red-hot, and at last an explosion to take place; the only conditions necessary for this curious experiment being excessive purity in the gases and in the surface of the plate. A sufficiently pure metallic surface can only be obtained by immersing the platinum in very strong hot sulphuric acid and then washing it in distilled water, or by making it the positive pole of a galvanic pile in dilute sulphuric acid. It appears that the force of cohesion, as well as the force of affinity, exerted by particles of matter, extends to all the particles within a very minute distance. Hence the
platinum, while drawing the particles of the two gases towards its surface by its great cohesive attraction, brings them so near to one another that they come within the sphere of their mutual affinity, and a chemical combination takes place. Dr. Faraday attributes the effect in part also to a diminution in the elasticity of the gaseous particles on their sides adjacent to the platinum, and to their perfect mixture or association, as well as to the positive action of the metal in condensing them against its surface by its attractive force. The particles when chemically united run off the surface of the metal in the form of water by their gravitation, or pass away as aqueous vapour and make way for others.
The oscillations of the atmosphere, and the changes in its temperature, are measured by variations in the heights of the barometer and thermometer. But the actual length of the liquid columns depends not only upon the force of gravitation, but upon the cohesive force or reciprocal attraction between the molecules of the liquid and those of the tube containing it. This peculiar action of the cohesive force is called capillary attraction or capillarity. If a glass tube of extremely fine bore, such as a small thermometer tube, be plunged into a cup of water or spirit of wine, the liquid will immediately rise in the tube above the level of that in the cup; and the surface of the little column thus suspended will be a hollow hemisphere, whose diameter is the interior diameter of the tube. If the same tube be plunged into a cupful of mercury, the liquid will also rise in the tube, but it will never attain the level of that in the cup, and its surface will be a hemisphere whose diameter is also the diameter of the tube (N. 172). The elevation or depression of the same liquid in different tubes of the same matter is in the inverse ratio of their internal diameters (N. 173), and altogether independent of their thickness; whence it follows that the molecular action is insensible at sensible distances, and that it is only the thinnest possible film of the interior surface of the tubes that exerts a sensible action on the liquid. So much indeed is this the case, that, when tubes of the same bore are completely wetted with water throughout their whole extent, mercury will rise to the same height in all of them, whatever be their thickness or density, because the minute coating of moisture is sufficient to remove the internal column of mercury beyond the sphere of attraction
of the tube, and to supply the place of a tube by its own capillary attraction. The forces which produce the capillary phenomena are the reciprocal attraction of the tube and the liquid, and of the liquid particles on one another; and, in order that the capillary column may be in equilibrio, the weight of that part of it which rises above or sinks below the level of the liquid in the cup must balance these forces.
The estimation of the action of the liquid is a difficult part of this problem. La Place, Dr. Young, and other mathematicians, have considered the liquid within the tube to be of uniform density; but M. Poisson, in one of those masterly productions in which he elucidates the most abstruse subjects, has proved that the phenomena of capillary attraction depend upon a rapid decrease in the density of the liquid column throughout an extremely small space at its surface. Every indefinitely thin layer of a liquid is compressed by the liquid above it, and supported by that below. Its degree of condensation depends upon the magnitude of the compressive force; and, as this force decreases rapidly towards the surface, where it vanishes the density of the liquid decreases also. M. Poisson has shown that, when this force is omitted, the capillary surface becomes plane, and that the liquid in the tube will neither rise above nor sink below the level of that in the cup. In estimating the forces, it is also necessary to include the variation in the density of the capillary surface round the edges from the attraction of the tube.
The direction of the resulting force determines the curvature of the surface of the capillary column. In order that a liquid may be in equilibrio, the force resulting from all the forces acting upon it must be perpendicular to the surface. Now it appears that, as glass is more dense than water or alcohol, the resulting force will be inclined towards the interior side of the tube; therefore the surface of the liquid must be more elevated at the sides of the tube than in the centre in order to be perpendicular to it, so that it will be concave as in the thermometer. But, as glass is less dense than mercury, the resulting force will be inclined from the interior side of the tube (N. 174), so that the surface of the capillary column must be more depressed at the sides of the tube than in the centre, in order to be perpendicular to the resulting force, and is consequently convex, as may be perceived