Elements of Chemistry, - In a New Systematic Order, Containing all the Modern Discoveries
by Antoine Lavoisier
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Member of the Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Medicine, and Agricultural Society of Paris, of the Royal Society of London, and Philosophical Societies of Orleans, Bologna, Basil, Philadelphia, Haerlem, Manchester, &c. &c.



Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Surgeon to the Orphan Hospital of Edinburgh.



************************************************************************ Transcriber's note: Tables needed to be split to fit space constraints. Minor typos have been corrected and footnotes moved to the end of the chapters. The italic markup for single italized letters (such as variables in equations) and weight abbreviations are deleted for easier reading. ************************************************************************


The very high character of Mr Lavoisier as a chemical philosopher, and the great revolution which, in the opinion of many excellent chemists, he has effected in the theory of chemistry, has long made it much desired to have a connected account of his discoveries, and of the new theory he has founded upon the modern experiments written by himself. This is now accomplished by the publication of his Elements of Chemistry; therefore no excuse can be at all necessary for giving the following work to the public in an English dress; and the only hesitation of the Translator is with regard to his own abilities for the task. He is most ready to confess, that his knowledge of the composition of language fit for publication is far inferior to his attachment to the subject, and to his desire of appearing decently before the judgment of the world.

He has earnestly endeavoured to give the meaning of the Author with the most scrupulous fidelity, having paid infinitely greater attention to accuracy of translation than to elegance of stile. This last indeed, had he even, by proper labour, been capable of attaining, he has been obliged, for very obvious reasons, to neglect, far more than accorded with his wishes. The French copy did not reach his hands before the middle of September; and it was judged necessary by the Publisher that the Translation should be ready by the commencement of the University Session at the end of October.

He at first intended to have changed all the weights and measures used by Mr Lavoisier into their correspondent English denominations, but, upon trial, the task was found infinitely too great for the time allowed; and to have executed this part of the work inaccurately, must have been both useless and misleading to the reader. All that has been attempted in this way is adding, between brackets ( ), the degrees of Fahrenheit's scale corresponding with those of Reaumeur's thermometer, which is used by the Author. Rules are added, however, in the Appendix, for converting the French weights and measures into English, by which means the reader may at any time calculate such quantities as occur, when desirous of comparing Mr Lavoisier's experiments with those of British authors.

By an oversight, the first part of the translation went to press without any distinction being preserved between charcoal and its simple elementary part, which enters into chemical combinations, especially with oxygen or the acidifying principle, forming carbonic acid. This pure element, which exists in great plenty in well made charcoal, is named by Mr Lavoisier carbone, and ought to have been so in the translation; but the attentive reader can very easily rectify the mistake. There is an error in Plate XI. which the engraver copied strictly from the original, and which was not discovered until the plate was worked off at press, when that part of the Elements which treats of the apparatus there represented came to be translated. The two tubes 21. and 24. by which the gas is conveyed into the bottles of alkaline solution 22. 25. should have been made to dip into the liquor, while the other tubes 23. and 26. which carry off the gas, ought to have been cut off some way above the surface of the liquor in the bottles.

A few explanatory notes are added; and indeed, from the perspicuity of the Author, very few were found necessary. In a very small number of places, the liberty has been taken of throwing to the bottom of the page, in notes, some parenthetical expressions, only relative to the subject, which, in their original place, tended to confuse the sense. These, and the original notes of the Author, are distinguished by the letter A, and to the few which the Translator has ventured to add, the letter E is subjoined.

Mr Lavoisier has added, in an Appendix, several very useful Tables for facilitating the calculations now necessary in the advanced state of modern chemistry, wherein the most scrupulous accuracy is required. It is proper to give some account of these, and of the reasons for omitting several of them.

No. I. of the French Appendix is a Table for converting ounces, gros, and grains, into the decimal fractions of the French pound; and No. II. for reducing these decimal fractions again into the vulgar subdivisions. No. III. contains the number of French cubical inches and decimals which correspond to a determinate weight of water.

The Translator would most readily have converted these Tables into English weights and measures; but the necessary calculations must have occupied a great deal more time than could have been spared in the period limited for publication. They are therefore omitted, as altogether useless, in their present state, to the British chemist.

No. IV. is a Table for converting lines or twelfth parts of the inch, and twelfth parts of lines, into decimal fractions, chiefly for the purpose of making the necessary corrections upon the quantities of gasses according to their barometrical pressure. This can hardly be at all useful or necessary, as the barometers used in Britain are graduated in decimal fractions of the inch, but, being referred to by the Author in the text, it has been retained, and is No. I. of the Appendix to this Translation.

No. V. Is a Table for converting the observed heights of water within the jars used in pneumato-chemical experiments into correspondent heights of mercury for correcting the volume of gasses. This, in Mr Lavoisier's Work, is expressed for the water in lines, and for the mercury in decimals of the inch, and consequently, for the reasons given respecting the Fourth Table, must have been of no use. The Translator has therefore calculated a Table for this correction, in which the water is expressed in decimals, as well as the mercury. This Table is No. II. of the English Appendix.

No. VI. contains the number of French cubical inches and decimals contained in the corresponding ounce-measures used in the experiments of our celebrated countryman Dr Priestley. This Table, which forms No. III. of the English Appendix, is retained, with the addition of a column, in which the corresponding English cubical inches and decimals are expressed.

No. VII. Is a Table of the weights of a cubical foot and inch, French measure, of the different gasses expressed in French ounces, gros, grains, and decimals. This, which forms No. VI. of the English Appendix, has been, with considerable labour, calculated into English weight and measure.

No. VIII. Gives the specific gravities of a great number of bodies, with columns, containing the weights of a cubical foot and inch, French measure, of all the substances. The specific gravities of this Table, which is No. VII. of the English Appendix, are retained, but the additional columns, as useless to the British philosopher, are omitted; and to have converted these into English denominations must have required very long and painful calculations.

Rules are subjoined, in the Appendix to this translation, for converting all the weights and measures used by Mr Lavoisier into corresponding English denominations; and the Translator is proud to acknowledge his obligation to the learned Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, who kindly supplied him with the necessary information for this purpose. A Table is likewise added, No. IV. of the English Appendix, for converting the degrees of Reaumeur's scale used by Mr Lavoisier into the corresponding degrees of Fahrenheit, which is universally employed in Britain[1].

This Translation is sent into the world with the utmost diffidence, tempered, however, with this consolation, that, though it must fall greatly short of the elegance, or even propriety of language, which every writer ought to endeavour to attain, it cannot fail of advancing the interests of true chemical science, by disseminating the accurate mode of analysis adopted by its justly celebrated Author. Should the public call for a second edition, every care shall be taken to correct the forced imperfections of the present translation, and to improve the work by valuable additional matter from other authors of reputation in the several subjects treated of.

EDINBURGH, } Oct. 23. 1789. }


[1] The Translator has since been enabled, by the kind assistance of the gentleman above alluded to, to give Tables, of the same nature with those of Mr Lavoisier, for facilitating the calculations of the results of chemical experiments.


When I began the following Work, my only object was to extend and explain more fully the Memoir which I read at the public meeting of the Academy of Sciences in the month of April 1787, on the necessity of reforming and completing the Nomenclature of Chemistry. While engaged in this employment, I perceived, better than I had ever done before, the justice of the following maxims of the Abbe de Condillac, in his System of Logic, and some other of his works.

"We think only through the medium of words.—Languages are true analytical methods.—Algebra, which is adapted to its purpose in every species of expression, in the most simple, most exact, and best manner possible, is at the same time a language and an analytical method.—The art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged."

Thus, while I thought myself employed only in forming a Nomenclature, and while I proposed to myself nothing more than to improve the chemical language, my work transformed itself by degrees, without my being able to prevent it, into a treatise upon the Elements of Chemistry.

The impossibility of separating the nomenclature of a science from the science itself, is owing to this, that every branch of physical science must consist of three things; the series of facts which are the objects of the science, the ideas which represent these facts, and the words by which these ideas are expressed. Like three impressions of the same seal, the word ought to produce the idea, and the idea to be a picture of the fact. And, as ideas are preserved and communicated by means of words, it necessarily follows that we cannot improve the language of any science without at the same time improving the science itself; neither can we, on the other hand, improve a science, without improving the language or nomenclature which belongs to it. However certain the facts of any science may be, and, however just the ideas we may have formed of these facts, we can only communicate false impressions to others, while we want words by which these may be properly expressed.

To those who will consider it with attention, the first part of this treatise will afford frequent proofs of the truth of the above observations. But as, in the conduct of my work, I have been obliged to observe an order of arrangement essentially differing from what has been adopted in any other chemical work yet published, it is proper that I should explain the motives which have led me to do so.

It is a maxim universally admitted in geometry, and indeed in every branch of knowledge, that, in the progress of investigation, we should proceed from known facts to what is unknown. In early infancy, our ideas spring from our wants; the sensation of want excites the idea of the object by which it is to be gratified. In this manner, from a series of sensations, observations, and analyses, a successive train of ideas arises, so linked together, that an attentive observer may trace back to a certain point the order and connection of the whole sum of human knowledge.

When we begin the study of any science, we are in a situation, respecting that science, similar to that of children; and the course by which we have to advance is precisely the same which Nature follows in the formation of their ideas. In a child, the idea is merely an effect produced by a sensation; and, in the same manner, in commencing the study of a physical science, we ought to form no idea but what is a necessary consequence, and immediate effect, of an experiment or observation. Besides, he that enters upon the career of science, is in a less advantageous situation than a child who is acquiring his first ideas. To the child, Nature gives various means of rectifying any mistakes he may commit respecting the salutary or hurtful qualities of the objects which surround him. On every occasion his judgments are corrected by experience; want and pain are the necessary consequences arising from false judgment; gratification and pleasure are produced by judging aright. Under such masters, we cannot fail to become well informed; and we soon learn to reason justly, when want and pain are the necessary consequences of a contrary conduct.

In the study and practice of the sciences it is quite different; the false judgments we form neither affect our existence nor our welfare; and we are not forced by any physical necessity to correct them. Imagination, on the contrary, which is ever wandering beyond the bounds of truth, joined to self-love and that self-confidence we are so apt to indulge, prompt us to draw conclusions which are not immediately derived from facts; so that we become in some measure interested in deceiving ourselves. Hence it is by no means to be wondered, that, in the science of physics in general, men have often made suppositions, instead of forming conclusions. These suppositions, handed down from one age to another, acquire additional weight from the authorities by which they are supported, till at last they are received, even by men of genius, as fundamental truths.

The only method of preventing such errors from taking place, and of correcting them when formed, is to restrain and simplify our reasoning as much as possible. This depends entirely upon ourselves, and the neglect of it is the only source of our mistakes. We must trust to nothing but facts: These are presented to us by Nature, and cannot deceive. We ought, in every instance, to submit our reasoning to the test of experiment, and never to search for truth but by the natural road of experiment and observation. Thus mathematicians obtain the solution of a problem by the mere arrangement of data, and by reducing their reasoning to such simple steps, to conclusions so very obvious, as never to lose sight of the evidence which guides them.

Thoroughly convinced of these truths, I have imposed upon myself, as a law, never to advance but from what is known to what is unknown; never to form any conclusion which is not an immediate consequence necessarily flowing from observation and experiment; and always to arrange the facts, and the conclusions which are drawn from them, in such an order as shall render it most easy for beginners in the study of chemistry thoroughly to understand them. Hence I have been obliged to depart from the usual order of courses of lectures and of treatises upon chemistry, which always assume the first principles of the science, as known, when the pupil or the reader should never be supposed to know them till they have been explained in subsequent lessons. In almost every instance, these begin by treating of the elements of matter, and by explaining the table of affinities, without considering, that, in so doing, they must bring the principal phenomena of chemistry into view at the very outset: They make use of terms which have not been defined, and suppose the science to be understood by the very persons they are only beginning to teach. It ought likewise to be considered, that very little of chemistry can be learned in a first course, which is hardly sufficient to make the language of the science familiar to the ears, or the apparatus familiar to the eyes. It is almost impossible to become a chemist in less than three or four years of constant application.

These inconveniencies are occasioned not so much by the nature of the subject, as by the method of teaching it; and, to avoid them, I was chiefly induced to adopt a new arrangement of chemistry, which appeared to me more consonant to the order of Nature. I acknowledge, however, that in thus endeavouring to avoid difficulties of one kind, I have found myself involved in others of a different species, some of which I have not been able to remove; but I am persuaded, that such as remain do not arise from the nature of the order I have adopted, but are rather consequences of the imperfection under which chemistry still labours. This science still has many chasms, which interrupt the series of facts, and often render it extremely difficult to reconcile them with each other: It has not, like the elements of geometry, the advantage of being a complete science, the parts of which are all closely connected together: Its actual progress, however, is so rapid, and the facts, under the modern doctrine, have assumed so happy an arrangement, that we have ground to hope, even in our own times, to see it approach near to the highest state of perfection of which it is susceptible.

The rigorous law from which I have never deviated, of forming no conclusions which are not fully warranted by experiment, and of never supplying the absence of facts, has prevented me from comprehending in this work the branch of chemistry which treats of affinities, although it is perhaps the best calculated of any part of chemistry for being reduced into a completely systematic body. Messrs Geoffroy, Gellert, Bergman, Scheele, De Morveau, Kirwan, and many others, have collected a number of particular facts upon this subject, which only wait for a proper arrangement; but the principal data are still wanting, or, at least, those we have are either not sufficiently defined, or not sufficiently proved, to become the foundation upon which to build so very important a branch of chemistry. This science of affinities, or elective attractions, holds the same place with regard to the other branches of chemistry, as the higher or transcendental geometry does with respect to the simpler and elementary part; and I thought it improper to involve those simple and plain elements, which I flatter myself the greatest part of my readers will easily understand, in the obscurities and difficulties which still attend that other very useful and necessary branch of chemical science.

Perhaps a sentiment of self-love may, without my perceiving it, have given additional force to these reflections. Mr de Morveau is at present engaged in publishing the article Affinity in the Methodical Encyclopaedia; and I had more reasons than one to decline entering upon a work in which he is employed.

It will, no doubt, be a matter of surprise, that in a treatise upon the elements of chemistry, there should be no chapter on the constituent and elementary parts of matter; but I shall take occasion, in this place, to remark, that the fondness for reducing all the bodies in nature to three or four elements, proceeds from a prejudice which has descended to us from the Greek Philosophers. The notion of four elements, which, by the variety of their proportions, compose all the known substances in nature, is a mere hypothesis, assumed long before the first principles of experimental philosophy or of chemistry had any existence. In those days, without possessing facts, they framed systems; while we, who have collected facts, seem determined to reject them, when they do not agree with our prejudices. The authority of these fathers of human philosophy still carry great weight, and there is reason to fear that it will even bear hard upon generations yet to come.

It is very remarkable, that, notwithstanding of the number of philosophical chemists who have supported the doctrine of the four elements, there is not one who has not been led by the evidence of facts to admit a greater number of elements into their theory. The first chemists that wrote after the revival of letters, considered sulphur and salt as elementary substances entering into the composition of a great number of substances; hence, instead of four, they admitted the existence of six elements. Beccher assumes the existence of three kinds of earth, from the combination of which, in different proportions, he supposed all the varieties of metallic substances to be produced. Stahl gave a new modification to this system; and succeeding chemists have taken the liberty to make or to imagine changes and additions of a similar nature. All these chemists were carried along by the influence of the genius of the age in which they lived, which contented itself with assertions without proofs; or, at least, often admitted as proofs the slighted degrees of probability, unsupported by that strictly rigorous analysis required by modern philosophy.

All that can be said upon the number and nature of elements is, in my opinion, confined to discussions entirely of a metaphysical nature. The subject only furnishes us with indefinite problems, which may be solved in a thousand different ways, not one of which, in all probability, is consistent with nature. I shall therefore only add upon this subject, that if, by the term elements, we mean to express those simple and indivisible atoms of which matter is composed, it is extremely probable we know nothing at all about them; but, if we apply the term elements, or principles of bodies, to express our idea of the last point which analysis is capable of reaching, we must admit, as elements, all the substances into which we are capable, by any means, to reduce bodies by decomposition. Not that we are entitled to affirm, that these substances we consider as simple may not be compounded of two, or even of a greater number of principles; but, since these principles cannot be separated, or rather since we have not hitherto discovered the means of separating them, they act with regard to us as simple substances, and we ought never to suppose them compounded until experiment and observation has proved them to be so.

The foregoing reflections upon the progress of chemical ideas naturally apply to the words by which these ideas are to be expressed. Guided by the work which, in the year 1787, Messrs de Morveau, Berthollet, de Fourcroy, and I composed upon the Nomenclature of Chemistry, I have endeavoured, as much as possible, to denominate simple bodies by simple terms, and I was naturally led to name these first. It will be recollected, that we were obliged to retain that name of any substance by which it had been long known in the world, and that in two cases only we took the liberty of making alterations; first, in the case of those which were but newly discovered, and had not yet obtained names, or at least which had been known but for a short time, and the names of which had not yet received the sanction of the public; and, secondly, when the names which had been adopted, whether by the ancients or the moderns, appeared to us to express evidently false ideas, when they confounded the substances, to which they were applied, with others possessed of different, or perhaps opposite qualities. We made no scruple, in this case, of substituting other names in their room, and the greatest number of these were borrowed from the Greek language. We endeavoured to frame them in such a manner as to express the most general and the most characteristic quality of the substances; and this was attended with the additional advantage both of assisting the memory of beginners, who find it difficult to remember a new word which has no meaning, and of accustoming them early to admit no word without connecting with it some determinate idea.

To those bodies which are formed by the union of several simple substances we gave new names, compounded in such a manner as the nature of the substances directed; but, as the number of double combinations is already very considerable, the only method by which we could avoid confusion, was to divide them into classes. In the natural order of ideas, the name of the class or genus is that which expresses a quality common to a great number of individuals: The name of the species, on the contrary, expresses a quality peculiar to certain individuals only.

These distinctions are not, as some may imagine, merely metaphysical, but are established by Nature. "A child," says the Abbe de Condillac, "is taught to give the name tree to the first one which is pointed out to him. The next one he sees presents the same idea, and he gives it the same name. This he does likewise to a third and a fourth, till at last the word tree, which he first applied to an individual, comes to be employed by him as the name of a class or a genus, an abstract idea, which comprehends all trees in general. But, when he learns that all trees serve not the same purpose, that they do not all produce the same kind of fruit, he will soon learn to distinguish them by specific and particular names." This is the logic of all the sciences, and is naturally applied to chemistry.

The acids, for example, are compounded of two substances, of the order of those which we consider as simple; the one constitutes acidity, and is common to all acids, and, from this substance, the name of the class or the genus ought to be taken; the other is peculiar to each acid, and distinguishes it from the rest, and from this substance is to be taken the name of the species. But, in the greatest number of acids, the two constituent elements, the acidifying principle, and that which it acidifies, may exist in different proportions, constituting all the possible points of equilibrium or of saturation. This is the case in the sulphuric and the sulphurous acids; and these two states of the same acid we have marked by varying the termination of the specific name.

Metallic substances which have been exposed to the joint action of the air and of fire, lose their metallic lustre, increase in weight, and assume an earthy appearance. In this state, like the acids, they are compounded of a principle which is common to all, and one which is peculiar to each. In the same way, therefore, we have thought proper to class them under a generic name, derived from the common principle; for which purpose, we adopted the term oxyd; and we distinguish them from each other by the particular name of the metal to which each belongs.

Combustible substances, which in acids and metallic oxyds are a specific and particular principle, are capable of becoming, in their turn, common principles of a great number of substances. The sulphurous combinations have been long the only known ones in this kind. Now, however, we know, from the experiments of Messrs Vandermonde, Monge, and Berthollet, that charcoal may be combined with iron, and perhaps with several other metals; and that, from this combination, according to the proportions, may be produced steel, plumbago, &c. We know likewise, from the experiments of M. Pelletier, that phosphorus may be combined with a great number of metallic substances. These different combinations we have classed under generic names taken from the common substance, with a termination which marks this analogy, specifying them by another name taken from that substance which is proper to each.

The nomenclature of bodies compounded of three simple substances was attended with still greater difficulty, not only on account of their number, but, particularly, because we cannot express the nature of their constituent principles without employing more compound names. In the bodies which form this class, such as the neutral salts, for instance, we had to consider, 1st, The acidifying principle, which is common to them all; 2d, The acidifiable principle which constitutes their peculiar acid; 3d, The saline, earthy, or metallic basis, which determines the particular species of salt. Here we derived the name of each class of salts from the name of the acidifiable principle common to all the individuals of that class; and distinguished each species by the name of the saline, earthy, or metallic basis, which is peculiar to it.

A salt, though compounded of the same three principles, may, nevertheless, by the mere difference of their proportion, be in three different states. The nomenclature we have adopted would have been defective, had it not expressed these different states; and this we attained chiefly by changes of termination uniformly applied to the same state of the different salts.

In short, we have advanced so far, that from the name alone may be instantly found what the combustible substance is which enters into any combination; whether that combustible substance be combined with the acidifying principle, and in what proportion; what is the state of the acid; with what basis it is united; whether the saturation be exact, or whether the acid or the basis be in excess.

It may be easily supposed that it was not possible to attain all these different objects without departing, in some instances, from established custom, and adopting terms which at first sight will appear uncouth and barbarous. But we considered that the ear is soon habituated to new words, especially when they are connected with a general and rational system. The names, besides, which were formerly employed, such as powder of algaroth, salt of alembroth, pompholix, phagadenic water, turbith mineral, colcathar, and many others, were neither less barbarous nor less uncommon. It required a great deal of practice, and no small degree of memory, to recollect the substances to which they were applied, much more to recollect the genus of combination to which they belonged. The names of oil of tartar per deliquium, oil of vitriol, butter of arsenic and of antimony, flowers of zinc, &c. were still more improper, because they suggested false ideas: For, in the whole mineral kingdom, and particularly in the metallic class, there exists no such thing as butters, oils, or flowers; and, in short, the substances to which they give these fallacious names, are nothing less than rank poisons.

When we published our essay on the nomenclature of chemistry, we were reproached for having changed the language which was spoken by our masters, which they distinguished by their authority, and handed down to us. But those who reproach us on this account, have forgotten that it was Bergman and Macquer themselves who urged us to make this reformation. In a letter which the learned Professor of Upsal, M. Bergman, wrote, a short time before he died, to M. de Morveau, he bids him spare no improper names; those who are learned, will always be learned, and those who are ignorant will thus learn sooner.

There is an objection to the work which I am going to present to the public, which is perhaps better founded, that I have given no account of the opinion of those who have gone before me; that I have stated only my own opinion, without examining that of others. By this I have been prevented from doing that justice to my associates, and more especially to foreign chemists, which I wished to render them. But I beseech the reader to consider, that, if I had filled an elementary work with a multitude of quotations; if I had allowed myself to enter into long dissertations on the history of the science, and the works of those who have studied it, I must have lost sight of the true object I had in view, and produced a work, the reading of which must have been extremely tiresome to beginners. It is not to the history of the science, or of the human mind, that we are to attend in an elementary treatise: Our only aim ought to be ease and perspicuity, and with the utmost care to keep every thing out of view which might draw aside the attention of the student; it is a road which we should be continually rendering more smooth, and from which we should endeavour to remove every obstacle which can occasion delay. The sciences, from their own nature, present a sufficient number of difficulties, though we add not those which are foreign to them. But, besides this, chemists will easily perceive, that, in the first part of my work, I make very little use of any experiments but those which were made by myself: If at any time I have adopted, without acknowledgment, the experiments or the opinions of M. Berthollet, M. Fourcroy, M. de la Place, M. Monge, or, in general, of any of those whose principles are the same with my own, it is owing to this circumstance, that frequent intercourse, and the habit of communicating our ideas, our observations, and our way of thinking to each other, has established between us a sort of community of opinions, in which it is often difficult for every one to know his own.

The remarks I have made on the order which I thought myself obliged to follow in the arrangement of proofs and ideas, are to be applied only to the first part of this work. It is the only one which contains the general sum of the doctrine I have adopted, and to which I wished to give a form completely elementary.

The second part is composed chiefly of tables of the nomenclature of the neutral salts. To these I have only added general explanations, the object of which was to point out the most simple processes for obtaining the different kinds of known acids. This part contains nothing which I can call my own, and presents only a very short abridgment of the results of these processes, extracted from the works of different authors.

In the third part, I have given a description, in detail, of all the operations connected with modern chemistry. I have long thought that a work of this kind was much wanted, and I am convinced it will not be without use. The method of performing experiments, and particularly those of modern chemistry, is not so generally known as it ought to be; and had I, in the different memoirs which I have presented to the Academy, been more particular in the detail of the manipulations of my experiments, it is probable I should have made myself better understood, and the science might have made a more rapid progress. The order of the different matters contained in this third part appeared to me to be almost arbitrary; and the only one I have observed was to class together, in each of the chapters of which it is composed, those operations which are most connected with one another. I need hardly mention that this part could not be borrowed from any other work, and that, in the principal articles it contains, I could not derive assistance from any thing but the experiments which I have made myself.

I shall conclude this preface by transcribing, literally, some observations of the Abbe de Condillac, which I think describe, with a good deal of truth, the state of chemistry at a period not far distant from our own. These observations were made on a different subject; but they will not, on this account, have less force, if the application of them be thought just.

'Instead of applying observation to the things we wished to know, we have chosen rather to imagine them. Advancing from one ill founded supposition to another, we have at last bewildered ourselves amidst a multitude of errors. These errors becoming prejudices, are, of course, adopted as principles, and we thus bewilder ourselves more and more. The method, too, by which we conduct our reasonings is as absurd; we abuse words which we do not understand, and call this the art of reasoning. When matters have been brought this length, when errors have been thus accumulated, there is but one remedy by which order can be restored to the faculty of thinking; this is, to forget all that we have learned, to trace back our ideas to their source, to follow the train in which they rise, and, as my Lord Bacon says, to frame the human understanding anew.

'This remedy becomes the more difficult in proportion as we think ourselves more learned. Might it not be thought that works which treated of the sciences with the utmost perspicuity, with great precision and order, must be understood by every body? The fact is, those who have never studied any thing will understand them better than those who have studied a great deal, and especially than those who have written a great deal.'

At the end of the fifth chapter, the Abbe de Condillac adds: 'But, after all, the sciences have made progress, because philosophers have applied themselves with more attention to observe, and have communicated to their language that precision and accuracy which they have employed in their observations: In correcting their language they reason better.'



Of the Formation and Decomposition of Aeriform Fluids,—of the Combustion of Simple Bodies, and the Formation of Acids, Page 1

CHAP. I.—Of the Combinations of Caloric, and the Formation of Elastic Aeriform Fluids or Gasses, ibid.

CHAP. II.—General Views relative to the Formation and Composition of our Atmosphere, 26

CHAP. III.—Analysis of Atmospheric Air, and its Division into two Elastic Fluids; one fit for Respiration, the other incapable of being respired, 32

CHAP. IV.—Nomenclature of the several constituent Parts of Atmospheric Air, 48

CHAP. V.—Of the Decomposition of Oxygen Gas by Sulphur, Phosphorus, and Charcoal, and of the Formation of Acids in general, 54

CHAP. VI.—Of the Nomenclature of Acids in general, and particularly of those drawn from Nitre and Sea Salt, 66

CHAP. VII.—Of the Decomposition of Oxygen Gas by means of Metals, and the Formation of Metallic Oxyds, 78

CHAP. VIII.—Of the Radical Principle of Water, and of its Decomposition by Charcoal and Iron, 83

CHAP. IX.—Of the Quantities of Caloric disengaged from different Species of Combustion, 97

Combustion of Phosphorus, 100

SECT. I.—Combustion of Charcoal, 101

SECT. II.—Combustion of Hydrogen Gas, 102

SECT. III.—Formation of Nitric Acid, 102

SECT. IV.—Combustion of Wax, 105

SECT. V.—Combustion of Olive Oil, 106

CHAP. X.—Of the Combustion of Combustible Substances with each other, 109

CHAP. XI.—Observations upon Oxyds and Acids with several Bases, and upon the Composition of Animal and Vegetable Substances, 115

CHAP. XII.—Of the Decomposition of Vegetable and Animal Substances by the Action of Fire, 123

CHAP. XIII.—Of the Decomposition of Vegetable Oxyds by the Vinous Fermentation, 129

CHAP. XIV.—Of the Putrefactive Fermentation, 141

CHAP. XV.—Of the Acetous Fermentation, 146

CHAP. XVI.—Of the Formation of Neutral Salts, and of their Bases, 149

SECT. I.—Of Potash, 151

SECT. II.—Of Soda, 155

SECT. III.—Of Ammoniac, 156

SECT. IV.—Of Lime, Magnesia, Barytes, and Argill, 157

SECT. V.—Of Metallic Bodies, 159

CHAP. XVII.—Continuation of the Observations upon Salifiable Bases, and the Formation of Neutral Salts, 161


Of the Combinations of Acids with Salifiable Bases, and of the Formation of Neutral Salts, 175


TABLE of Simple Substances, 175

SECT. I.—Observations upon simple Substances, 176

TABLE of Compound Oxydable and Acidifiable Bases, 179

SECT. II.—Observations upon Compound Radicals, 180

SECT. III.—Observations upon the Combinations of Light and Caloric with different Substances, 182

TABLE of the Combinations of Oxygen with the Simple Substances, to face 185

SECT. IV.—Observations upon these Combinations, 185

TABLE of the Combinations of Oxygen with Compound Radicals, 190

SECT. V.—Observations upon these Combinations, 191

TABLE of the Combinations of Azote with the Simple Substances, 194

SECT VI.—Observations upon these Combinations of Azote, 195

TABLE of the Combinations of Hydrogen with Simple Substances, 198

SECT. VII.—Observations upon Hydrogen, and its Combinations, 199

TABLE of the Binary Combinations of Sulphur with the Simple Substances, 202

SECT. VIII.—Observations upon Sulphur, and its Combinations, 203

TABLE of the Combinations of Phosphorus with Simple Substances, 204

SECT. IX.—Observations upon Phosphorus and its Combinations, 205

TABLE of the Binary Combinations of Charcoal, 207

SECT. X.—Observations upon Charcoal, and its Combinations, 208

SECT. XI.—Observations upon the Muriatic, Fluoric, and Boracic Radicals, and their Combinations, 209

SECT. XII.—Observations upon the Combinations of Metals with each other, 219

TABLE of the Combinations of Azote, in the State of Nitrous Acid, with the Salifiable Bases, 212

TABLE of the Combinations of Azote, in the State of Nitric Acid, with the Salifiable Bases, 213

SECT. XIII.—Observations upon Nitrous and Nitric Acids, and their Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 214

TABLE of the Combinations of Sulphuric Acid with the Salifiable Bases, 218

SECT. XIV.—Observations upon Sulphuric Acid, and its Combinations, 219

TABLE of the Combinations of Sulphurous Acid, 222

SECT. XV.—Observations upon Sulphurous Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 223

TABLE of the Combinations of Phosphorous and Phosphoric Acids, 225

SECT. XVI.—Observations upon Phosphorous and Phosphoric Acids, and their Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 226

TABLE of the Combinations of Carbonic Acid, 228

SECT. XVII.—Observations upon Carbonic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 229

TABLE of the Combinations of Muriatic Acid, 231

TABLE of the Combinations of Oxygenated Muriatic Acid, 232

SECT. XVIII.—Observations upon Muriatic and Oxygenated Muriatic Acid, and their Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 233

TABLE of the Combinations of Nitro-Muriatic Acid, 236

SECT. XIX.—Observations upon Nitro-muriatic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 237

TABLE of the Combinations of Fluoric Acid, 239

SECT. XX.—Observations upon Fluoric Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 240

TABLE of the Combinations of Boracic Acid, 242

SECT. XXI.—Observations upon Boracic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 243

TABLE of the Combinations of Arseniac Acid, 246

SECT. XXII.—Observations upon Arseniac Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 247

SECT. XXIII.—Observations upon Molibdic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 249

SECT. XXIV.—Observations upon Tungstic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, and a Table of these in the order of their Affinity, 251

TABLE of the Combinations of Tartarous Acid, 253

SECT. XXV.—Observations upon Tartarous Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 254

SECT. XXVI.—Observations upon Mallic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 256

TABLE of the Combinations of Citric Acid, 258

SECT. XXVII.—Observations upon Citric Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 259

TABLE of the Combinations of Pyro-lignous Acid, 260

SECT. XXVIII.—Observations upon Pyro-lignous Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 261

SECT. XXIX.—Observations upon Pyro-tartarous Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, ibid.

TABLE of the Combinations of Pyro-mucous Acid, 263

SECT. XXX.—Observations upon Pyro-mucous Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 264

TABLE of the Combinations of Oxalic Acid, 265

SECT. XXXI.—Observations upon Oxalic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 266

TABLE of the Combinations of Acetous Acid, to face 267

SECT. XXXII.—Observations upon Acetous Acid, and its Combinations with the Salifiable Bases, 267

TABLE of the Combinations of Acetic Acid, 271

SECT. XXXIII.—Observations upon Acetic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 272

TABLE of the Combinations of Succinic Acid, 273

SECT. XXXIV.—Observations upon Succinic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 274

SECT. XXXV.—Observations upon Benzoic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 275

SECT. XXXVI.—Observations upon Camphoric Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 276

SECT. XXXVII.—Observations upon Gallic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 277

SECT. XXXVIII.—Observations upon Lactic Acid, and its Combinations with Salifiable Bases, 278

TABLE of the Combinations of Saccholactic Acid, 280

SECT. XXXIX.—Observations upon Saccholactic Acid, and its Combination with Salifiable Bases, 281

TABLE of the Combinations of Formic Acid, 282

SECT. XL.—Observations upon Formic Acid, and its Combinations with the Salifiable Bases, 283

SECT. XLI.—Observations upon the Bombic Acid, and its Combinations with the Salifiable Bases, 284

TABLE of the Combinations of the Sebacic Acid, 285

SECT. XLII.—Observations upon the Sebacic Acid, and its Combinations with the Salifiable Bases, 286

SECT. XLIII.—Observations upon the Lithic Acid, and its Combinations with the Salifiable Bases, 287

TABLE of the Combinations of the Prussic Acid, 288

SECT. XLIV.—Observations upon the Prussic Acid, and its Combinations with the Salifiable Bases, 289


Description of the Instruments and Operations of Chemistry, 291


CHAP. I.—Of the Instruments necessary for determining the Absolute and Specific Gravities of Solid and Liquid Bodies, 295

CHAP. II.—Of Gazometry, or the Measurement of the Weight and Volume of Aeriform Substances, 304

SECT. I.—Of the Pneumato-chemical Apparatus, ibid.

SECT. II.—Of the Gazometer, 308

SECT. III.—Some other methods for Measuring the Volume of Gasses, 319

SECT. IV.—Of the method of Separating the different Gasses from each other, 323

SECT. V.—Of the necessary Corrections of the Volume of Gasses, according to the Pressure of the Atmosphere, 328

SECT. VI.—Of the Correction relative to the Degrees of the Thermometer, 335

SECT. VII.—Example for Calculating the Corrections relative to the Variations of Pressure and Temperature, 337

SECT. VIII.—Method of determining the Weight of the different Gasses, 340

CHAP. III.—Description of the Calorimeter, or Apparatus for measuring Caloric, 343

CHAP. IV.—Of the Mechanical Operations for Division of Bodies, 357

SECT. I.—Of Trituration, Levigation, and Pulverization, ibid.

SECT. II.—Of Sifting and Washing Powdered Substances, 361

SECT. III.—Of Filtration, 363

SECT. IV.—Of Decantation, 365

CHAP. V.—Of Chemical means for Separating the Particles of Bodies from each other without Decomposition, and for Uniting them again, 367

SECT. I.—Of the Solution of Salts, 368

SECT. II.—Of Lixiviation, 373

SECT. III.—Of Evaporation, 375

SECT. IV.—Of Cristallization, 379

SECT. V.—Of Simple Distillation, 384

SECT. VI.—Of Sublimation, 388

CHAP. VI.—Of Pneumato-chemical Distillations, Metallic Dissolutions, and some other operations which require very complicated instruments, 390

SECT. I.—Of Compound and Pneumato-chemical Distillations, ibid.

SECT. II.—Of Metallic Dissolutions, 398

SECT. III.—Apparatus necessary in Experiments upon Vinous and Putrefactive Fermentations, 401

SECT. IV.—Apparatus for the Decomposition of Water, 404

CHAP. VII.—Of the Composition and Use of Lutes, 407

CHAP. VIII.—Of Operations upon Combustion and Deflagration, 414

SECT. I.—Of Combustion in general, ibid.

SECT. II.—Of the Combustion of Phosphorus, 418

SECT. III.—Of the Combustion of Charcoal, 422

SECT. IV.—Of the Combustion of Oils, 426

SECT. V.—Of the Combustion of Alkohol, 433

SECT. VI.—Of the Combustion of Ether, 435

SECT. VII.—Of the Combustion of Hydrogen Gas, and the Formation of Water, 437

SECT. VIII.—Of the Oxydation of Metals, 441

CHAP. IX.—Of Deflagration, 452

CHAP. X.—Of the Instruments necessary for Operating upon Bodies in very high Temperatures, 460

SECT. I.—Of Fusion, ibid.

SECT. II.—Of Furnaces, 462

SECT. III.—Of increasing the Action of Fire, by using Oxygen Gas instead of Atmospheric Air, 474


No. I.—TABLE for Converting Lines, or Twelfth Parts of an Inch, and Fractions of Lines, into Decimal Fractions of the Inch, 481

No. II.—TABLE for Converting the Observed Heighth of Water in the Jars of the Pneumato-Chemical Apparatus, expressed in Inches and Decimals, into Corresponding Heighths of Mercury, 482

No. III.—TABLE for Converting the Ounce Measures used by Dr Priestley into French and English Cubical Inches, 483

No. IV.—TABLE for Reducing the Degrees of Reaumeur's Thermometer into its corresponding Degrees of Fahrenheit's Scale, 484

No. V.—ADDITIONAL.—RULES for Converting French Weights and Measures into correspondent English Denominations, 485

No. VI.—TABLE of the Weights of the different Gasses, at 28 French inches, or 29.84 English inches barometrical pressure, and at 10 deg. (54.5 deg.) of temperature, expressed in English measure and English Troy weight, 490

No. VII.—TABLES of the Specific Gravities of different bodies, 491

No. VIII.—ADDITIONAL.—RULES for Calculating the Absolute Gravity in English Troy Weight of a Cubic Foot and Inch, English Measure, of any Substance whose Specific Gravity is known, 505

No. IX.—TABLES for Converting Ounces, Drams, and Grains, Troy, into Decimals of the Troy Pound of 12 Ounces, and for Converting Decimals of the Pound Troy into Ounces, &c. 508

No. X.—TABLE of the English Cubical Inches and Decimals corresponding to a determinate Troy Weight of Distilled Water at the Temperature of 55 deg., calculated from Everard's experiment, 511





Of the Formation and Decomposition of Aeriform Fluids—of the Combustion of Simple Bodies—and the Formation of Acids.


Of the Combinations of Caloric, and the Formation of Elastic Aeriform Fluids.

That every body, whether solid or fluid, is augmented in all its dimensions by any increase of its sensible heat, was long ago fully established as a physical axiom, or universal proposition, by the celebrated Boerhaave. Such facts as have been adduced for controverting the generality of this principle offer only fallacious results, or, at least, such as are so complicated with foreign circumstances as to mislead the judgment: But, when we separately consider the effects, so as to deduce each from the cause to which they separately belong, it is easy to perceive that the separation of particles by heat is a constant and general law of nature.

When we have heated a solid body to a certain degree, and have thereby caused its particles to separate from each other, if we allow the body to cool, its particles again approach each other in the same proportion in which they were separated by the increased temperature; the body returns through the same degrees of expansion which it before extended through; and, if it be brought back to the same temperature from which we set out at the commencement of the experiment, it recovers exactly the same dimensions which it formerly occupied. But, as we are still very far from being able to arrive at the degree of absolute cold, or deprivation of all heat, being unacquainted with any degree of coldness which we cannot suppose capable of still farther augmentation, it follows, that we are still incapable of causing the ultimate particles of bodies to approach each other as near as is possible; and, consequently, that the particles of all bodies do not touch each other in any state hitherto known, which, tho' a very singular conclusion, is yet impossible to be denied.

It is supposed, that, since the particles of bodies are thus continually impelled by heat to separate from each other, they would have no connection between themselves; and, of consequence, that there could be no solidity in nature, unless they were held together by some other power which tends to unite them, and, so to speak, to chain them together; which power, whatever be its cause, or manner of operation, we name Attraction.

Thus the particles of all bodies may be considered as subjected to the action of two opposite powers, the one repulsive, the other attractive, between which they remain in equilibrio. So long as the attractive force remains stronger, the body must continue in a state of solidity; but if, on the contrary, heat has so far removed these particles from each other, as to place them beyond the sphere of attraction, they lose the adhesion they before had with each other, and the body ceases to be solid.

Water gives us a regular and constant example of these facts; whilst below Zero[2] of the French thermometer, or 32 deg. of Fahrenheit, it remains solid, and is called ice. Above that degree of temperature, its particles being no longer held together by reciprocal attraction, it becomes liquid; and, when we raise its temperature above 80 deg., (212 deg.) its particles, giving way to the repulsion caused by the heat, assume the state of vapour or gas, and the water is changed into an aeriform fluid.

The same may be affirmed of all bodies in nature: They are either solid or liquid, or in the state of elastic aeriform vapour, according to the proportion which takes place between the attractive force inherent in their particles, and the repulsive power of the heat acting upon these; or, what amounts to the same thing, in proportion to the degree of heat to which they are exposed.

It is difficult to comprehend these phenomena, without admitting them as the effects of a real and material substance, or very subtile fluid, which, insinuating itself between the particles of bodies, separates them from each other; and, even allowing the existence of this fluid to be hypothetical, we shall see in the sequel, that it explains the phenomena of nature in a very satisfactory manner.

This substance, whatever it is, being the cause of heat, or, in other words, the sensation which we call warmth being caused by the accumulation of this substance, we cannot, in strict language, distinguish it by the term heat; because the same name would then very improperly express both cause and effect. For this reason, in the memoir which I published in 1777[3], I gave it the names of igneous fluid and matter of heat. And, since that time, in the work[4] published by Mr de Morveau, Mr Berthollet, Mr de Fourcroy, and myself, upon the reformation of chemical nomenclature, we thought it necessary to banish all periphrastic expressions, which both lengthen physical language, and render it more tedious and less distinct, and which even frequently does not convey sufficiently just ideas of the subject intended. Wherefore, we have distinguished the cause of heat, or that exquisitely elastic fluid which produces it, by the term of caloric. Besides, that this expression fulfils our object in the system which we have adopted, it possesses this farther advantage, that it accords with every species of opinion, since, strictly speaking, we are not obliged to suppose this to be a real substance; it being sufficient, as will more clearly appear in the sequel of this work, that it be considered as the repulsive cause, whatever that may be, which separates the particles of matter from each other; so that we are still at liberty to investigate its effects in an abstract and mathematical manner.

In the present state of our knowledge, we are unable to determine whether light be a modification of caloric, or if caloric be, on the contrary, a modification of light. This, however, is indisputable, that, in a system where only decided facts are admissible, and where we avoid, as far as possible, to suppose any thing to be that is not really known to exist, we ought provisionally to distinguish, by distinct terms, such things as are known to produce different effects. We therefore distinguish light from caloric; though we do not therefore deny that these have certain qualities in common, and that, in certain circumstances, they combine with other bodies almost in the same manner, and produce, in part, the same effects.

What I have already said may suffice to determine the idea affixed to the word caloric; but there remains a more difficult attempt, which is, to give a just conception of the manner in which caloric acts upon other bodies. Since this subtile matter penetrates through the pores of all known substances; since there are no vessels through which it cannot escape, and, consequently, as there are none which are capable of retaining it, we can only come at the knowledge of its properties by effects which are fleeting, and difficultly ascertainable. It is in these things which we neither see nor feel, that it is especially necessary to guard against the extravagancy of our imagination, which forever inclines to step beyond the bounds of truth, and is very difficultly restrained within the narrow line of facts.

We have already seen, that the same body becomes solid, or fluid, or aeriform, according to the quantity of caloric by which it is penetrated; or, to speak more strictly, according as the repulsive force exerted by the caloric is equal to, stronger, or weaker, than the attraction of the particles of the body it acts upon.

But, if these two powers only existed, bodies would become liquid at an indivisible degree of the thermometer, and would almost instantaneously pass from the solid state of aggregation to that of aeriform elasticity. Thus water, for instance, at the very moment when it ceases to be ice, would begin to boil, and would be transformed into an aeriform fluid, having its particles scattered indefinitely through the surrounding space. That this does not happen, must depend upon the action of some third power. The pressure of the atmosphere prevents this separation, and causes the water to remain in the liquid state till it be raised to 80 deg. of temperature (212 deg.) above zero of the French thermometer, the quantity of caloric which it receives in the lowest temperature being insufficient to overcome the pressure of the atmosphere.

Whence it appears that, without this atmospheric pressure, we should not have any permanent liquid, and should only be able to see bodies in that state of existence in the very instant of melting, as the smallest additional caloric would instantly separate their particles, and dissipate them through the surrounding medium. Besides, without this atmospheric pressure, we should not even have any aeriform fluids, strictly speaking, because the moment the force of attraction is overcome by the repulsive power of the caloric, the particles would separate themselves indefinitely, having nothing to give limits to their expansion, unless their own gravity might collect them together, so as to form an atmosphere.

Simple reflection upon the most common experiments is sufficient to evince the truth of these positions. They are more particularly proved by the following experiment, which I published in the Memoirs of the French Academy for 1777, p. 426.

Having filled with sulphuric ether[5] a small narrow glass vessel, A, (Plate VII. Fig. 17.), standing upon its stalk P, the vessel, which is from twelve to fifteen lines diameter, is to be covered by a wet bladder, tied round its neck with several turns of strong thread; for greater security, fix a second bladder over the first. The vessel should be filled in such a manner with the ether, as not to leave the smallest portion of air between the liquor and the bladder. It is now to be placed under the recipient BCD of an air-pump, of which the upper part B ought to be fitted with a leathern lid, through which passes a wire EF, having its point F very sharp; and in the same receiver there ought to be placed the barometer GH. The whole being thus disposed, let the recipient be exhausted, and then, by pushing down the wire EF, we make a hole in the bladder. Immediately the ether begins to boil with great violence, and is changed into an elastic aeriform fluid, which fills the receiver. If the quantity of ether be sufficient to leave a few drops in the phial after the evaporation is finished, the elastic fluid produced will sustain the mercury in the barometer attached to the air-pump, at eight or ten inches in winter, and from twenty to twenty-five in summer[6]. To render this experiment more complete, we may introduce a small thermometer into the phial A, containing the ether, which will descend considerably during the evaporation.

The only effect produced in this experiment is, the taking away the weight of the atmosphere, which, in its ordinary state, presses on the surface of the ether; and the effects resulting from this removal evidently prove, that, in the ordinary temperature of the earth, ether would always exist in an aeriform state, but for the pressure of the atmosphere, and that the passing of the ether from the liquid to the aeriform state is accompanied by a considerable lessening of heat; because, during the evaporation, a part of the caloric, which was before in a free state, or at least in equilibrio in the surrounding bodies, combines with the ether, and causes it to assume the aeriform state.

The same experiment succeeds with all evaporable fluids, such as alkohol, water, and even mercury; with this difference, that the atmosphere formed in the receiver by alkohol only supports the attached barometer about one inch in winter, and about four or five inches in summer; that formed by water, in the same situation, raises the mercury only a few lines, and that by quicksilver but a few fractions of a line. There is therefore less fluid evaporated from alkohol than from ether, less from water than from alkohol, and still less from mercury than from either; consequently there is less caloric employed, and less cold produced, which quadrates exactly with the results of these experiments.

Another species of experiment proves very evidently that the aeriform state is a modification of bodies dependent on the degree of temperature, and on the pressure which these bodies undergo. In a Memoir read by Mr de la Place and me to the Academy in 1777, which has not been printed, we have shown, that, when ether is subjected to a pressure equal to twenty-eight inches of the barometer, or about the medium pressure of the atmosphere, it boils at the temperature of about 32 deg. (104 deg.), or 33 deg. (106.25 deg.), of the thermometer. Mr de Luc, who has made similar experiments with spirit of wine, finds it boils at 67 deg. (182.75 deg.). And all the world knows that water boils at 80 deg. (212 deg.). Now, boiling being only the evaporation of a liquid, or the moment of its passing from the fluid to the aeriform state, it is evident that, if we keep ether continually at the temperature of 33 deg. (106.25 deg.), and under the common pressure of the atmosphere, we shall have it always in an elastic aeriform state; and that the same thing will happen with alkohol when above 67 deg. (182.75 deg.), and with water when above 80 deg. (212 deg.); all which are perfectly conformable to the following experiment[7].

I filled a large vessel ABCD (Plate VII. Fig. 16.) with water, at 35 deg. (110.75 deg.), or 36 deg. (113 deg.); I suppose the vessel transparent, that we may see what takes place in the experiment; and we can easily hold the hands in water at that temperature without inconvenience. Into it I plunged some narrow necked bottles F, G, which were filled with the water, after which they were turned up, so as to rest on their mouths on the bottom of the vessel. Having next put some ether into a very small matrass, with its neck a b c, twice bent as in the Plate, I plunged this matrass into the water, so as to have its neck inserted into the mouth of one of the bottles F. Immediately upon feeling the effects of the heat communicated to it by the water in the vessel ABCD it began to boil; and the caloric entering into combination with it, changed it into elastic aeriform fluid, with which I filled several bottles successively, F, G, &c.

This is not the place to enter upon the examination of the nature and properties of this aeriform fluid, which is extremely inflammable; but, confining myself to the object at present in view, without anticipating circumstances, which I am not to suppose the reader to know, I shall only observe, that the ether, from this experiment, is almost only capable of existing in the aeriform state in our world; for, if the weight of our atmosphere was only equal to between 20 and 24 inches of the barometer, instead of 28 inches, we should never be able to obtain ether in the liquid state, at least in summer; and the formation of ether would consequently be impossible upon mountains of a moderate degree of elevation, as it would be converted into gas immediately upon being produced, unless we employed recipients of extraordinary strength, together with refrigeration and compression. And, lastly, the temperature of the blood being nearly that at which ether passes from the liquid to the aeriform state, it must evaporate in the primae viae, and consequently it is very probable the medical properties of this fluid depend chiefly upon its mechanical effect.

These experiments succeed better with nitrous ether, because it evaporates in a lower temperature than sulphuric ether. It is more difficult to obtain alkohol in the aeriform state; because, as it requires 67 deg. (182.75 deg.) to reduce it to vapour, the water of the bath must be almost boiling, and consequently it is impossible to plunge the hands into it at that temperature.

It is evident that, if water were used in the foregoing experiment, it would be changed into gas, when exposed to a temperature superior to that at which it boils. Although thoroughly convinced of this, Mr de la Place and myself judged it necessary to confirm it by the following direct experiment. We filled a glass jar A, (Plate VII. Fig. 5.) with mercury, and placed it with its mouth downwards in a dish B, likewise filled with mercury, and having introduced about two gross of water into the jar, which rose to the top of the mercury at CD; we then plunged the whole apparatus into an iron boiler EFGH, full of boiling sea-water of the temperature of 85 deg. (123.25 deg.), placed upon the furnace GHIK. Immediately upon the water over the mercury attaining the temperature of 80 deg. (212 deg.), it began to boil; and, instead of only filling the small space ACD, it was converted into an aeriform fluid, which filled the whole jar; the mercury even descended below the surface of that in the dish B; and the jar must have been overturned, if it had not been very thick and heavy, and fixed to the dish by means of iron-wire. Immediately after withdrawing the apparatus from the boiler, the vapour in the jar began to condense, and the mercury rose to its former station; but it returned again to the aeriform state a few seconds after replacing the apparatus in the boiler.

We have thus a certain number of substances, which are convertible into elastic aeriform fluids by degrees of temperature, not much superior to that of our atmosphere. We shall afterwards find that there are several others which undergo the same change in similar circumstances, such as muriatic or marine acid, ammoniac or volatile alkali, the carbonic acid or fixed air, the sulphurous acid, &c. All of these are permanently elastic in or about the mean temperature of the atmosphere, and under its common pressure.

All these facts, which could be easily multiplied if necessary, give me full right to assume, as a general principle, that almost every body in nature is susceptible of three several states of existence, solid, liquid, and aeriform, and that these three states of existence depend upon the quantity of caloric combined with the body. Henceforwards I shall express these elastic aeriform fluids by the generic term gas; and in each species of gas I shall distinguish between the caloric, which in some measure serves the purpose of a solvent, and the substance, which in combination with the caloric, forms the base of the gas.

To these bases of the different gases, which are hitherto but little known, we have been obliged to assign names; these I shall point out in Chap. IV. of this work, when I have previously given an account of the phenomena attendant upon the heating and cooling of bodies, and when I have established precise ideas concerning the composition of our atmosphere.

We have already shown, that the particles of every substance in nature exist in a certain state of equilibrium, between that attraction which tends to unite and keep the particles together, and the effects of the caloric which tends to separate them. Hence the caloric not only surrounds the particles of all bodies on every side, but fills up every interval which the particles of bodies leave between each other. We may form an idea of this, by supposing a vessel filled with small spherical leaden bullets, into which a quantity of fine sand is poured, which, insinuating into the intervals between the bullets, will fill up every void. The balls, in this comparison, are to the sand which surrounds them exactly in the same situation as the particles of bodies are with respect to the caloric; with this difference only, that the balls are supposed to touch each other, whereas the particles of bodies are not in contact, being retained at a small distance from each other, by the caloric.

If, instead of spherical balls, we substitute solid bodies of a hexahedral, octohedral, or any other regular figure, the capacity of the intervals between them will be lessened, and consequently will no longer contain the same quantity of sand. The same thing takes place, with respect to natural bodies; the intervals left between their particles are not of equal capacity, but vary in consequence of the different figures and magnitude of their particles, and of the distance at which these particles are maintained, according to the existing proportion between their inherent attraction, and the repulsive force exerted upon them by the caloric.

In this manner we must understand the following expression, introduced by the English philosophers, who have given us the first precise ideas upon this subject; the capacity of bodies for containing the matter of heat. As comparisons with sensible objects are of great use in assisting us to form distinct notions of abstract ideas, we shall endeavour to illustrate this, by instancing the phenomena which take place between water and bodies which are wetted and penetrated by it, with a few reflections.

If we immerge equal pieces of different kinds of wood, suppose cubes of one foot each, into water, the fluid gradually insinuates itself into their pores, and the pieces of wood are augmented both in weight and magnitude: But each species of wood will imbibe a different quantity of water; the lighter and more porous woods will admit a larger, the compact and closer grained will admit of a lesser quantity; for the proportional quantities of water imbibed by the pieces will depend upon the nature of the constituent particles of the wood, and upon the greater or lesser affinity subsisting between them and water. Very resinous wood, for instance, though it may be at the same time very porous, will admit but little water. We may therefore say, that the different kinds of wood possess different capacities for receiving water; we may even determine, by means of the augmentation of their weights, what quantity of water they have actually absorbed; but, as we are ignorant how much water they contained, previous to immersion, we cannot determine the absolute quantity they contain, after being taken out of the water.

The same circumstances undoubtedly take place, with bodies that are immersed in caloric; taking into consideration, however, that water is an incompressible fluid, whereas caloric is, on the contrary, endowed with very great elasticity; or, in other words, the particles of caloric have a great tendency to separate from each other, when forced by any other power to approach; this difference must of necessity occasion very considerable diversities in the results of experiments made upon these two substances.

Having established these clear and simple propositions, it will be very easy to explain the ideas which ought to be affixed to the following expressions, which are by no means synonimous, but possess each a strict and determinate meaning, as in the following definitions:

Free caloric, is that which is not combined in any manner with any other body. But, as we live in a system to which caloric has a very strong adhesion, it follows that we are never able to obtain it in the state of absolute freedom.

Combined caloric, is that which is fixed in bodies by affinity or elective attraction, so as to form part of the substance of the body, even part of its solidity.

By the expression specific caloric of bodies, we understand the respective quantities of caloric requisite for raising a number of bodies of the same weight to an equal degree of temperature. This proportional quantity of caloric depends upon the distance between the constituent particles of bodies, and their greater or lesser degrees of cohesion; and this distance, or rather the space or void resulting from it, is, as I have already observed, called the capacity of bodies for containing caloric.

Heat, considered as a sensation, or, in other words, sensible heat, is only the effect produced upon our sentient organs, by the motion or passage of caloric, disengaged from the surrounding bodies. In general, we receive impressions only in consequence of motion, and we might establish it as an axiom, That, WITHOUT MOTION, THERE IS NO SENSATION. This general principle applies very accurately to the sensations of heat and cold: When we touch a cold body, the caloric which always tends to become in equilibrio in all bodies, passes from our hand into the body we touch, which gives us the feeling or sensation of cold. The direct contrary happens, when we touch a warm body, the caloric then passing from the body into our hand, produces the sensation of heat. If the hand and the body touched be of the same temperature, or very nearly so, we receive no impression, either of heat or cold, because there is no motion or passage of caloric; and thus no sensation can take place, without some correspondent motion to occasion it.

When the thermometer rises, it shows, that free caloric is entering into the surrounding bodies: The thermometer, which is one of these, receives its share in proportion to its mass, and to the capacity which it possesses for containing caloric. The change therefore which takes place upon the thermometer, only announces a change of place of the caloric in those bodies, of which the thermometer forms one part; it only indicates the portion of caloric received, without being a measure of the whole quantity disengaged, displaced, or absorbed.

The most simple and most exact method for determining this latter point, is that described by Mr de la Place, in the Memoirs of the Academy, No. 1780, p. 364; a summary explanation of which will be found towards the conclusion of this work. This method consists in placing a body, or a combination of bodies, from which caloric is disengaging, in the midst of a hollow sphere of ice; and the quantity of ice melted becomes an exact measure of the quantity of caloric disengaged. It is possible, by means of the apparatus which we have caused to be constructed upon this plan, to determine, not as has been pretended, the capacity of bodies for containing heat, but the ratio of the increase or diminution of capacity produced by determinate degrees of temperature. It is easy with the same apparatus, by means of divers combinations of experiments, to determine the quantity of caloric requisite for converting solid substances into liquids, and liquids into elastic aeriform fluids; and, vice versa, what quantity of caloric escapes from elastic vapours in changing to liquids, and what quantity escapes from liquids during their conversion into solids. Perhaps, when experiments have been made with sufficient accuracy, we may one day be able to determine the proportional quantity of caloric, necessary for producing the several species of gasses. I shall hereafter, in a separate chapter, give an account of the principal results of such experiments as have been made upon this head.

It remains, before finishing this article, to say a few words relative to the cause of the elasticity of gasses, and of fluids in the state of vapour. It is by no means difficult to perceive that this elasticity depends upon that of caloric, which seems to be the most eminently elastic body in nature. Nothing is more readily conceived, than that one body should become elastic by entering into combination with another body possessed of that quality. We must allow that this is only an explanation of elasticity, by an assumption of elasticity, and that we thus only remove the difficulty one step farther, and that the nature of elasticity, and the reason for caloric being elastic, remains still unexplained. Elasticity in the abstract is nothing more than that quality of the particles of bodies by which they recede from each other when forced together. This tendency in the particles of caloric to separate, takes place even at considerable distances. We shall be satisfied of this, when we consider that air is susceptible of undergoing great compression, which supposes that its particles were previously very distant from each other; for the power of approaching together certainly supposes a previous distance, at least equal to the degree of approach. Consequently, those particles of the air, which are already considerably distant from each other, tend to separate still farther. In fact, if we produce Boyle's vacuum in a large receiver, the very last portion of air which remains spreads itself uniformly through the whole capacity of the vessel, however large, fills it completely throughout, and presses every where against its sides: We cannot, however, explain this effect, without supposing that the particles make an effort to separate themselves on every side, and we are quite ignorant at what distance, or what degree of rarefaction, this effort ceases to act.

Here, therefore, exists a true repulsion between the particles of elastic fluids; at least, circumstances take place exactly as if such a repulsion actually existed; and we have very good right to conclude, that the particles of caloric mutually repel each other. When we are once permitted to suppose this repelling force, the rationale of the formation of gasses, or aeriform fluids, becomes perfectly simple; tho' we must, at the same time, allow, that it is extremely difficult to form an accurate conception of this repulsive force acting upon very minute particles placed at great distances from each other.

It is, perhaps, more natural to suppose, that the particles of caloric have a stronger mutual attraction than those of any other substance, and that these latter particles are forced asunder in consequence of this superior attraction between the particles of the caloric, which forces them between the particles of other bodies, that they may be able to reunite with each other. We have somewhat analogous to this idea in the phenomena which occur when a dry sponge is dipt into water: The sponge swells; its particles separate from each other; and all its intervals are filled up by the water. It is evident, that the sponge, in the act of swelling, has acquired a greater capacity for containing water than it had when dry. But we cannot certainly maintain, that the introduction of water between the particles of the sponge has endowed them with a repulsive power, which tends to separate them from each other; on the contrary, the whole phenomena are produced by means of attractive powers; and these are, first, The gravity of the water, and the power which it exerts on every side, in common with all other fluids; 2dly, The force of attraction which takes place between the particles of the water, causing them to unite together; 3dly, The mutual attraction of the particles of the sponge with each other; and, lastly, The reciprocal attraction which exists between the particles of the sponge and those of the water. It is easy to understand, that the explanation of this fact depends upon properly appreciating the intensity of, and connection between, these several powers. It is probable, that the separation of the particles of bodies, occasioned by caloric, depends in a similar manner upon a certain combination of different attractive powers, which, in conformity with the imperfection of our knowledge, we endeavour to express by saying, that caloric communicates a power of repulsion to the particles of bodies.


[2] Whenever the degree of heat occurs in this work, it is stated by the author according to Reaumur's scale. The degrees within brackets are the correspondent degrees of Fahrenheit's scale, added by the translator. E.

[3] Collections of the French Academy of Sciences for that year, p. 420.

[4] Chemical Nomenclature.

[5] As I shall afterwards give a definition, and explain the properties of the liquor called ether, I shall only premise here, that it is a very volatile inflammable liquor, having a considerably smaller specific gravity than water, or even spirit of wine.—A.

[6] It would have been more satisfactory if the Author had specified the degrees of the thermometer at which these heights of the mercury in the barometer are produced.

[7] Vide Memoirs of the French Academy, anno 1780, p. 335.—A.


General Views relative to the Formation and Composition of our Atmosphere.

These views which I have taken of the formation of elastic aeriform fluids or gasses, throw great light upon the original formation of the atmospheres of the planets, and particularly that of our earth. We readily conceive, that it must necessarily consist of a mixture of the following substances: First, Of all bodies that are susceptible of evaporation, or, more strictly speaking, which are capable of retaining the state of aeriform elasticity in the temperature of our atmosphere, and under a pressure equal to that of a column of twenty-eight inches of quicksilver in the barometer; and, secondly, Of all substances, whether liquid or solid, which are capable of being dissolved by this mixture of different gasses.

The better to determine our ideas relating to this subject, which has not hitherto been sufficiently considered, let us, for a moment, conceive what change would take place in the various substances which compose our earth, if its temperature were suddenly altered. If, for instance, we were suddenly transported into the region of the planet Mercury, where probably the common temperature is much superior to that of boiling water, the water of the earth, and all the other fluids which are susceptible of the gasseous state, at a temperature near to that of boiling water, even quicksilver itself, would become rarified; and all these substances would be changed into permanent aeriform fluids or gasses, which would become part of the new atmosphere. These new species of airs or gasses would mix with those already existing, and certain reciprocal decompositions and new combinations would take place, until such time as all the elective attractions or affinities subsisting amongst all these new and old gasseous substances had operated fully; after which, the elementary principles composing these gasses, being saturated, would remain at rest. We must attend to this, however, that, even in the above hypothetical situation, certain bounds would occur to the evaporation of these substances, produced by that very evaporation itself; for as, in proportion to the increase of elastic fluids, the pressure of the atmosphere would be augmented, as every degree of pressure tends, in some measure, to prevent evaporation, and as even the most evaporable fluids can resist the operation of a very high temperature without evaporating, if prevented by a proportionally stronger compression, water and all other liquids being able to sustain a red heat in Papin's digester; we must admit, that the new atmosphere would at last arrive at such a degree of weight, that the water which had not hitherto evaporated would cease to boil, and, of consequence, would remain liquid; so that, even upon this supposition, as in all others of the same nature, the increasing gravity of the atmosphere would find certain limits which it could not exceed. We might even extend these reflections greatly farther, and examine what change might be produced in such situations upon stones, salts, and the greater part of the fusible substances which compose the mass of our earth. These would be softened, fused, and changed into fluids, &c.: But these speculations carry me from my object, to which I hasten to return.

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