Page images

It appears from the experiments of MM. Becquerel and Biot, that electrical disturbances produce these phosphorescent effects. There is thus a mysterious connexion between the most refrangible rays and electricity which the experiments of M. E. Becquerel confirm, showing that electricity is developed during chemical action by the violet rays, that it is feebly developed by the blue and indigo, but that none is excited by the less refrangible part of the spectrum.

A series of experiments by Sir John Herschel have disclosed a new set of obscure rays in the solar spectrum, which seem to bear the same relation to those of heat that the photographic or chemical rays bear to the luminous. They are situate in that part of the spectrum which is occupied by the less refrangible visible colours, and have been named by their discoverer Parathermic rays. It must be held in remembrance that the region of greatest heat in the solar spectrum lies in the dark space beyond the visible red. Now, Sir John Herschel found that in experiments with a solution of gum guaiacum in soda, which gives the paper a green colour, the green, yellow, orange, and red rays of the spectrum invariably discharged the colour, while no effect was produced by the extra-spectral rays of heat, which ought to have had the greatest effect had heat been the cause of the phenomenon. When an aqueous solution of chlorine was poured over a slip of paper prepared with gum guaiacum dissolved in soda, a colour varying from a deep somewhat greenish hue to a fine celestial blue was given to it; and, when the solar spectrum was thrown on the paper while moist, the colour was discharged from all the space under the less refrangible luminous rays, at the same time that the more distant thermic rays beyond the spectrum evaporated the moisture from the space on which they fell; so that the heat spots became apparent. But the spots disappeared as the paper dried, leaving the surface unchanged; while the photographic impression within the visible spectrum increased in intensity, the non-luminous thermic rays, though evidently active as to heat, were yet incapable of effecting that peculiar chemical change which other rays of much less heating power were all the time producing. Sir John having ascertained that an artificial heat from 180° to 280° of Fahrenheit changed the green tint of gum guaiacum to its original yellow hue when moist, but that it had no effect when dry, he there


fore tried whether heat from a hot iron applied to the back of the paper used in the last-mentioned experiment while under the influence of the solar spectrum might not assist the action of the calorific rays; but, instead of doing so, it greatly accelerated the discoloration over the spaces occupied by the less refrangible rays, but had no effect on the extra-spectral region of maximum heat. Obscure terrestrial heat, therefore, is capable of assisting and being assisted in effecting this peculiar change by those rays of the spectrum, whether luminous or thermic, which occupy its red, yellow, and green regions; while, on the other hand, it receives no such assistance from the purely thermic rays beyond the spectrum acting under similar circumstances and in an equal state of condensation.

The conclusions drawn from these experiments are confirmed by that which follows: a photographic picture formed on paper prepared with a mixture of the solutions of ammonia-citrate of iron and ferro-sesquicyanite of potash in equal parts, then thrown into water and afterwards dried, will be blue and negative, that is to say, the lights and shadows will be the reverse of what they are in nature. If in this state the paper be washed with a solution of proto-nitrate of mercury, the picture will be discharged; but if it be well washed and dried, and a hot smoothingiron passed over it, the picture instantly reappears, not blue, but brown; if kept some weeks in this state in perfect darkness between the leaves of a portfolio, it fades, and almost entirely vanishes, but a fresh application of heat restores it to its full original intensity. This curious change is not the effect of light, at least not of light alone. A certain temperature must be attained, and that suffices in total darkness; yet, on exposing to a very concentrated spectrum a slip of the paper used in the last experiment, after the uniform blue colour has been discharged and a white ground left, this whiteness is changed to brown over the whole region of the red and orange rays, but not beyond the luminous spectrum.

Sir John thence concludes:-1st. That it is the heat of these rays, not their light, which operates the change; 2ndly. That this heat possesses a peculiar chemical quality which is not possessed by the purely calorific rays outside of the visible spectrum, though far more intense; and, 3rdly, That the heat radiated from obscurely hot iron abounds especially in rays analogous to those of the region of the spectrum above indicated.


Another instance of these singular transformations may be noticed. The pictures formed on cyanotype paper rendered more sensitive by the addition of corrosive sublimate are blue on a white ground and positive, that is, the lights and shadows are the same as in nature, but, by the application of heat, the colour is changed from blue to brown, from positive to negative; even by keeping in darkness the blue colour is restored, as well as the positive character. Sir John attributes this, as in the former instance, to certain rays, which, regarded as rays of heat or light, or of some influence sui generis accompanying the red and orange rays of the spectrum, are also copiously emitted by bodies heated short of redness. He thinks it probable that these invisible parathermic rays are the rays which radiate from molecule to molecule in the interior of bodies, that they determine the discharge of vegetable colours at the boiling temperature, and also the innumerable atomic transformations of organic bodies which take place at the temperature below redness, that they are distinct from those of pure heat, and that they are sufficiently identified by these characters to become legitimate objects of scientific discussion. The calorific and parathermic rays appear to be intimately connected with the discoveries of Messrs. Draper and Moser. Daguerre has shown that the action of light on the iodide of silver renders it capable of condensing the vapour of mercury which adheres to the parts affected by it. Professor Moser of Königsberg has proved that the same effect is produced by the simple contact of bodies, and even by their very near juxtaposition, and that in total darkness as well as in light. This discovery he announced in the following words:" If a surface has been touched in any particular parts by any body, it acquires the property of precipitating all vapours, and these adhere to it or combine chemically with it on these spots differently from what they do on the untouched parts." If we write on a plate of glass or any smooth surface whatever with blotting-paper, a brush, or anything else, and then clean it, the characters always reappear if the plate or surface be breathed upon, and the same effect may be produced even on the surface of mercury; nor is absolute contact necessary. If a screen cut in a pattern be held over a polished metallic surface at a small distance, and the whole breathed on, after the vapour has evaporated so that no trace is left on the surface, the pattern comes out when it is breathed on again.

Professor Moser proved that bodies exert a very decided influence upon each other, by placing coins, cut stones, pieces of horn, and other substances, for a short time on a warm metallic plate: when the substance was removed, no impression appeared on the plate till it was breathed upon or exposed to the vapour of mercury, and then these vapours adhered only to the parts where the substance had been placed, making distinct images, which in some cases were permanent after the vapour was removed. Similar impressions were obtained on glass and other substances even when the bodies were not in contact, and the results were the same whether the experiments were performed in light or in darkness.

Mr. Grove found, when plates of zinc and copper were closely approximated, but not in contact, and suddenly separated, that one was positively and the other negatively electric; whence he inferred that the intervening medium was either polarised, or that a radiation analogous, if not identical, with that which produces Moser's images takes place from plate to plate.

Mr. Hunt has shown that many of these phenomena depend on difference of temperature, and that, in order to obtain good impressions, dissimilar metals must be used. For example, gold, silver, bronze, and copper coins were placed on a plate of copper too hot to be touched, and allowed to remain till the plate cooled all the coins had made an impression, the distinctness and intensity of which were in the order of the metals named. When the plate was exposed to the vapour of mercury the result was the same, but, when the vapour was wiped off, the gold and silver coins only had left permanent images on the copper. These impressions are often minutely perfect, whether the coins are in actual contact with the plate or one-eighth of an inch above it. The mass of the metal has a material influence on the result; a large copper coin makes a better impression on a copper plate than a small silver coin. When coins of different metals are placed on the same plate they interfere with each other.

When, instead of being heated, the copper plate was cooled by a freezing mixture, and bad conductors of heat laid upon it, as wood, paper, glass, &c., the result was similar.

Mr. Hunt, observing that a black substance leaves a stronger impression on a metallic surface than a white, applied the property to the art of copying prints, woodcuts, writing, and

printing, on copper amalgamated on one surface and highly polished, merely by placing the object to be copied smoothly on the metal, and pressing it into close contact by a plate of glass: after some hours the plate is subjected to the vapour of mercury, and afterwards to that of iodine, when a black and accurate impression of the object comes out on a grey ground. Effects similar to those attributed to heat may also be produced by elec→ tricity. Mr. Karsten, by placing a glass plate upon one of metal, and on the glass plate a medal subjected to discharges of electricity, found a perfect image of the medal impressed on the glass, which could be brought into evidence by either mercury or iodine; and, when several plates of glass were interposed between the medal and the metallic plate, each plate of glass received an image on its upper surface after the passage of electrical discharges. These discharges have the remarkable power of restoring impressions that have been long obliterated from plates by polishing-a proof that the disturbances upon which these phenomena depend are not confined to the surface of the metals, but that a very decided molecular change has taken place to a considerable depth. Mr. Hunt's experiments prove that the electro-negative metals make the most decided images upon electro-negative plates, and vice versa. M. Matteucci has shown that a discharge of electricity does not visibly affect a polished silver plate, but that it produces an alteration which renders it capable of condensing vapour.

The impression of an engraving was made by laying it face downwards on a silver plate iodized, and placing an amalgamated copper plate upon it; it was left in darkness fifteen hours, during which time an impression of the engraving had been made on the amalgamated plate through the paper.

An iodized silver plate was placed in darkness with a coil of string laid on it, and with a polished silver plate suspended oneeighth of an inch above it: after four hours they were exposed to the vapours of mercury, which became uniformly deposited on the iodized plate, but on the silver one there was a sharp image of the string, so that this image was formed in the dark, and even without contact. Coins or other objects leave their impressions in the same manner with perfect sharpness and accuracy, when brought out by vapour without contact, in darkness, and on simple metals.

« PreviousContinue »