Fragments of science, V. 1-2
by John Tyndall
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[I would now lay more stress on the lateral yielding, referred to in the footnote concerning Mr. Warren De la Rue's attempt to produce finely granular white-lead, accompanied as it is by tangential sliding, than I was prepared to do when this lecture was given. This sliding is, I think, the principal cause of the planes of weakness, both in pressed wax and slate rock. J. T. 1871.]



[Footnote: Abstract of a discourse delivered in the Royal Institution, February 1, 1856.]

THE notion of an attractive force, which draws bodies towards the centre of the earth, was entertained by Anaxagoras and his pupils, by Democritus, Pythagoras, and Epicurus; and the conjectures of these ancients were renewed by Galileo, Huyghens, and others, who stated that bodies attract each other as a magnet attracts iron. Kepler applied the notion to bodies beyond the surface of the earth, and affirmed the extension of this force to the most distant stars. Thus it would appear, that in the attraction of iron by a magnet originated the conception of the force of gravitation. Nevertheless, if we look closely at the matter, it will be seen that the magnetic force possesses characters strikingly distinct from those of the force which holds the universe together. The theory of gravitation is, that every particle of matter attracts every other particle; in magnetism also we have attraction, but we have always, at the same time, repulsion, the final effect being due to the difference of these two forces. A body may be intensely acted on by a magnet, and still no motion of translation will follow, if the repulsion be equal to the attraction. Previous to magnetization, a dipping needle, when its centre of gravity is supported, stands accurately level; but, after magnetization, one end of it, in our latitude, is pulled towards the north pole of the earth. The needle, however, being suspended from the arm of a fine balance, its weight is found unaltered by its magnetization. In like manner, when the needle is permitted to float upon a liquid, and thus to follow the attraction of the north magnetic pole of the earth, there is no motion of the mass towards that pole. The reason is known to be, that although the marked end of the needle is attracted by the north pole, the unmarked end is repelled by an equal force, the two equal and opposite forces neutralizing each other.

When the pole of an ordinary magnet is brought to act upon the swimming needle, the latter is attracted,—the reason being that the attracted end of the needle being nearer to the pole of the magnet than the repelled end, the force of attraction is the more powerful of the two. In the case of the earth, its pole is so distant that the length of the needle is practically zero. In like manner, when a piece of iron is presented to a magnet, the nearer parts are attracted, while the more distant parts are repelled; and because the attracted portions are nearer to the magnet than the repelled ones, we have a balance in favour of attraction. Here then is the special characteristic of the magnetic force, which distinguishes it from that of gravitation. The latter is a simple unpolar force, while the former is duplex or polar. Were gravitation like magnetism, a stone would no more fall to the ground than a piece of iron towards the north magnetic pole: and thus, however rich in consequences the supposition of Kepler and others may have been, it is clear that a force like that of magnetism would not be able to transact the business of the universe.

The object of this discourse is to enquire whether the force of diamagnetism, which manifests itself as a repulsion of certain bodies by the poles of a magnet, is to be ranged as a polar force, beside that of magnetism; or as an unpolar force, beside that of gravitation. When a cylinder of soft iron is placed within a wire helix, and surrounded by an electric current, the antithesis of its two ends, or, in other words, its polar excitation, is at once manifested by its action upon a magnetic needle; and it may be asked why a cylinder of bismuth may not be substituted for the cylinder of iron, and its state similarly examined. The reason is, that the excitement of the bismuth is so feeble, that it would be quite masked by that of the helix in which it is enclosed; and the problem that now meets us is, so to excite a diamagnetic body that the pure action of the body upon a magnetic needle may be observed, unmixed with the action of the body used to excite the diamagnetic.

How this has been effected may be illustrated in the following manner:

When through an upright helix of covered copper wire, a voltaic current is sent, the top of the helix attracts, while its bottom repels, the same pole of a magnetic needle; its central point, on the contrary, is neutral, and exhibits neither attraction nor repulsion. Such a helix is caused to stand between the two poles N'S' of an astatic system. [Footnote: The reversal of the poles of the two magnets, which were of the same strength, completely annulled the action of the earth as a magnet.] The two magnets S N' and S'N are united by a rigid cross piece at their centres, and are suspended from the point a, so that both magnets swing in the same horizontal plane. It is so arranged that the poles N' s' are opposite to the central or neutral point of the helix, so that when a current is sent through the latter, the magnets, as before explained, are unaffected. Here then we have an excited helix which itself has no action upon the magnets, and we are thus enabled to examine the action of a body placed within the helix and excited by it, undisturbed by the influence of the latter. The helix being 12 inches high, a cylinder of soft iron 6 inches long, suspended from a string and passing over a pulley, can be raised or lowered within the helix. When it is so far sunk that its lower end rests upon the table, the upper end finds itself between the poles N'S' of the astatic system. The iron cylinder is thus converted into a strong magnet, attracting one of the poles, and repelling the other, and consequently deflecting the entire astatic system. When the cylinder is raised so that the upper end is at the level of the top of the helix, its lower end comes between the poles N'S'; and a deflection opposed in direction to the former one is the immediate consequence. To render these deflections more easily visible, a mirror m is attached to the system of magnets; a beam of light thrown upon the mirror being reflected and projected as a bright disk against the wall. The distance of this image from the mirror being considerable, and its angular motion double that of the latter, a very slight motion of the magnet is sufficient to produce a displacement of the image through several yards.

This then is the principle of the beautiful apparatus [Footnote: Devised by Prof. W. Weber, and constructed by M. Leyser, of Leipzig.] by which the investigation was conducted. It is manifest that if a second helix be placed between the poles SN with a cylinder within it, the action upon the astatic magnet may be exalted. This was the arrangement made use of in the actual enquiry. Thus to intensify the feeble action, which it is here our object to seek, we have in the first place neutralized the action of the earth upon the magnets, by placing them astatically. Secondly, by making use of two cylinders, and permitting them to act simultaneously on the four poles of the magnets, we have rendered the deflecting force four times what it would be, if only a single pole were used. Finally, the whole apparatus was enclosed in a suitable case which protected the magnets from air-currents, and the deflections were read off through a glass plate in the case, by means of a telescope and scale placed at a considerable distance from the instrument.

A pair of bismuth cylinders was first examined. Sending a current through the helices, and observing that the magnets swung perfectly free, it was first arranged that the bismuth cylinders within the helices had their central or neutral points opposite to the poles of the magnets. All being at rest the number on the scale marked by the cross wire of the telescope was 572. The cylinders were then moved, one up the other down, so that two of their ends were brought to bear simultaneously upon the magnetic poles: the magnet moved promptly, and after some oscillations [Footnote: To lessen these a copper damper was made use of.] came to rest at the number 612; thus moving from a smaller to a larger number. The other two ends of the bars were next brought to bear upon the magnet: a prompt deflection was the consequence, and the final position of equilibrium was 526; the movement being from a larger to a smaller number. We thus observe a manifest polar action of the bismuth cylinders upon the magnet; one pair of ends deflecting it in one direction, and the other pair deflecting it in the opposite direction.

Substituting for the cylinders of bismuth thin cylinders of iron, of magnetic slate, of sulphate of iron, carbonate of iron, protochloride of iron, red ferrocyanide of potassium, and other magnetic bodies, it was found that when the position of the magnetic cylinders was the same as that of the cylinders of bismuth, the deflection produced by the former was always opposed in direction to that produced by the latter; and hence the disposition of the force in the diamagnetic body must have been precisely antithetical to its disposition in the magnetic ones.

But it will be urged, and indeed has been urged against this inference, that the deflection produced by the bismuth cylinders may be due to induced currents excited in the metal by its motion within the helices. In reply to this objection, it may be stated, in the first place, that the deflection is permanent, and cannot therefore be due to induced currents, which are only of momentary duration. It has also been urged that such experiments ought to be made with other metals, and with better conductors than bismuth; for if due to currents of induction, the better the conductor the more exalted will be the effect. This requirement was complied with.

Cylinders of antimony were substituted for those of bismuth. This metal is a better conductor of electricity, but less strongly diamagnetic than bismuth. If therefore the action referred to be due to induced currents we ought to have it greater in the case of antimony than with bismuth; but if it springs from a true diamagnetic polarity, the action of the bismuth ought to exceed that of the antimony. Experiment proves this to be the case. Hence the deflection produced by these metals is due to their diamagnetic, and not to their conductive capacity. Copper cylinders were next examined: here we have a metal which conducts electricity fifty times better than bismuth, but its diamagnetic power is nearly null; if the effects be due to induced currents we ought to have them here in an enormously exaggerated degree, but no sensible deflection was produced by the two cylinders of copper.

It has also been proposed by the opponents of diamagnetic polarity to coat fragments of bismuth with some insulating substance, so as to render the formation of induced currents impossible, and to test the question with cylinders of these fragments. This requirement was also fulfilled. It is only necessary to reduce the bismuth to powder and expose it for a short time to the air to cause the particles to become so far oxidised as to render them perfectly insulating. The insulating power of the powder was exhibited experimentally; nevertheless, this powder, enclosed in glass tubes, exhibited an action scarcely less powerful than that of the massive bismuth cylinders.

But the most rigid proof, a proof admitted to be conclusive by those who have denied the antithesis of magnetism and diamagnetism, remains to be stated. Prisms of the same heavy glass as that with which the diamagnetic force was discovered, were substituted for the metallic cylinders, and their action upon the magnet was proved to be precisely the same in kind as that of the cylinders of bismuth. The enquiry was also extended to other insulators: to phosphorus, sulphur, nitre, calcareous spar, statuary marble, with the same invariable result: each of these substances was proved to be polar, the disposition of the force being the same as that of bismuth and the reverse of that of iron. When a bar of iron is set erect, its lower end is known to be a north pole, and its upper end a south pole, in virtue of the earth's induction. A marble statue, on the contrary, has its feet a south pole, and its head a north pole, and there is no doubt that the same remark applies to its living archetype; each man walking over the earth's surface is a true diamagnet, with its poles the reverse of those of a mass of magnetic matter of the same shape and position.

An experiment of practical value, as affording a ready estimate of the different conductive powers of two metals for electricity, was exhibited in the lecture, for the purpose of proving experimentally some of the statements made in reference to this subject. A cube of bismuth was suspended by a twisted string between the two poles of an electro-magnet. The cube was attached by a short copper wire to a little square pyramid, the base of which was horizontal, and its sides formed of four small triangular pieces of looking-glass. A beam of light was suffered to fall upon this reflector, and as the reflector followed the motion of the cube the images cast from its sides followed each other in succession, each describing a circle about thirty feet in diameter. As the velocity of rotation augmented, these images blended into a continuous ring of light. At a particular instant the electro-magnet was excited, currents were evolved in the rotating cube, and the strength of these currents, which increases with the conductivity of the cube for electricity, was practically estimated by the time required to bring the cube and its associated mirrors to a state of rest. With bismuth this time amounted to a score of seconds or more: a cube of copper, on the contrary, was struck almost instantly motionless when the circuit was established.



[Footnote: From a discourse delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, June 7, 1861.]

OMITTING all preface, attention was first drawn to an experimental arrangement intended to prove that gaseous bodies radiate heat in different degrees. Near a double screen of polished tin was placed an ordinary ring gas-burner, and on this was placed a hot copper ball, from which a column of heated air ascended. Behind the screen, but so situated that no ray from the ball could reach the instrument, was an excellent Thermo-electric pile, connected by wires with a very delicate galvanometer. The pile was known to be an instrument whereby heat is applied to the generation of electric currents; the strength of the current being an accurate measure of the quantity of the heat. As long as both faces of the pile are at the same temperature, no current is produced; but the slightest difference in the temperature of the two faces at once declares itself by the production of a current, which, when carried through the galvanometer, indicates by the deflection of the needle both its strength and its direction.

The two faces of the pile were in the first instance brought to the same temperature; the equilibrium being shown by the needle of the galvanometer standing at zero. The rays emitted by the current of hot air already referred to were permitted to fall upon one of the faces of the pile; and an extremely slight movement of the needle showed that the radiation from the hot air, though sensible, was extremely feeble. Connected with the ring-burner was a holder containing oxygen gas; and by turning a cock, a stream of this gas was permitted to issue from the burner, strike the copper ball, and ascend in a heated column in front of the pile. The result was, that oxygen showed itself, as a radiator of heat, to be quite as feeble as atmospheric air.

A second holder containing olefiant gas was then connected with the ring-burner. Oxygen and air had already flowed over the ball and cooled it in some degree. Hence the olefiant gas laboured under a disadvantage. But on permitting the gas to rise from the ball, it casts an amount of heat against the adjacent face of the pile sufficient to impel the needle of the galvanometer almost to 90 deg.. This experiment proved the vast difference between two equally invisible gases with regard to their power of emitting radiant heat.

The converse experiment was now performed. The thermo-electric pile was removed and placed between two cubes filled with water kept in a state of constant ebullition; and it was so arranged that the quantities of heat falling from the cubes on the opposite faces of the pile were exactly equal, thus neutralising each other. The needle of the galvanometer being at zero, a sheet of oxygen gas was caused to issue from a slit between one of the cubes and the adjacent face of the pile. If this sheet of gas possessed any sensible power of intercepting the thermal rays from the cube, one face of the pile being deprived of the heat thus intercepted, a difference of temperature between its two faces would instantly set in, and the result would be declared by the galvanometer. The quantity absorbed by the oxygen under those circumstances was too feeble to affect the galvanometer; the gas, in fact, proved perfectly transparent to the rays of heat. It had but a feeble power of radiation: it had an equally feeble power of absorption.

The pile remaining in its position, a sheet of olefiant gas was caused to issue from the same slit as that through which the oxygen had passed. No one present could see the gas; it was quite invisible, the light went through it as freely as through oxygen or air; but its effect upon the thermal rays emanating from the cube was what might be expected from a sheet of metal. A quantity so large was cut off, that the needle of the galvanometer, promptly quitting the zero line, moved with energy to its stops. Thus the olefiant gas, so light and clear and pervious to luminous rays, was proved to be a most potent destroyer of the rays emanating from an obscure source. The reciprocity of action established in the case of oxygen comes out here; the good radiator is found by this experiment to be the good absorber.

This result, now exhibited before a public audience for the first time, was typical of what had been obtained with gases generally. Going through the entire list of gases and vapours in this way, we find radiation and absorption to be as rigidly associated as positive and negative in electricity, or as north and south polarity in magnetism. So that if we make the number which expresses the absorptive power the numerator of a fraction, and that which expresses its radiative power the denominator, the result would be, that on account of the numerator and denominator varying in the same, proportion, the value of that fraction would always remain the same, whatever might be the gas or vapour experimented with.

But why should this reciprocity exist? What is the meaning of absorption? what is the meaning of radiation? When you cast a stone into still water, rings of waves surround the place where it falls; motion is radiated on all sides from the centre of disturbance. When a hammer strikes a bell, the latter vibrates; and sound, which is nothing more than an undulatory motion of the air, is radiated in all directions. Modern philosophy reduces light and heat to the same mechanical category. A luminous body is one with its atoms in a state of vibration; a hot body is one with its atoms also vibrating, but at a rate which is incompetent to excite the sense of vision; and, as a sounding body has the air around it, through which it propagates its vibrations, so also the luminous or heated body has a medium, called aether, which accepts its motions and carries them forward with inconceivable velocity. Radiation, then, as regards both light and heat, is the transference of motion from the vibrating body to the aether in which it swings: and, as in the case of sound, the motion imparted to the air is soon transferred to surrounding objects, against which the aerial undulations strike, the sound being, in technical language, absorbed; so also with regard to light and heat, absorption consists in the transference of motion from the agitated aether to the molecules of the absorbing body.

The simple atoms are found to be bad radiators; the compound atoms good ones: and the higher the degree of complexity in the atomic grouping, the more potent, as a general rule, is the radiation and absorption. Let us get definite ideas here, however gross, and purify them afterwards by the process of abstraction. Imagine our simple atoms swinging like single spheres in the aether; they cannot create the swell which a group of them united to form a system can produce. An oar runs freely edgeways through the water, and imparts far less of its motion to the water than when its broad flat side is brought to bear upon it. In our present language the oar, broad side vertical, is a good radiator; broad side horizontal, it is a bad radiator. Conversely the waves of water, impinging upon the flat face of the oar-blade, will impart a greater amount of motion to it than when impinging upon the edge. In the position in which the oar radiates well, it also absorbs well. Simple atoms glide through the aether without much resistance; compound ones encounter resistance, and hence yield up more speedily their motion to the aether. Mix oxygen and nitrogen mechanically, they absorb and radiate a certain amount of heat. Cause these gases to combine chemically and form nitrous oxide, both the absorption and radiation are thereby augmented hundreds of times!

In this way we look with the telescope of the intellect into atomic systems, and obtain a conception of processes which the eye of sense can never reach. But gases and vapours possess a power of choice as to the rays which they absorb. They single out certain groups of rays for destruction, and allow other groups to pass unharmed. This is best illustrated by a famous experiment of Sir David Brewster's, modified to suit present requirements. Into a glass cylinder, with its ends stopped by discs of plate-glass, a small quantity of nitrous acid gas is introduced; the presence of the gas being indicated by its rich brown colour. The beam from an electric lamp being sent through two prisms of bisulphide of carbon, a spectrum seven feet long and eighteen inches wide is cast upon the screen. Introducing the cylinder containing the nitrous acid into the path of the beam as it issues from the lamp, the splendid and continuous spectrum becomes instantly furrowed by numerous dark bands, the rays answering to which are intercepted by the nitric gas, while the light which falls upon the intervening spaces is permitted to pass with comparative impunity.

Here also the principle of reciprocity, as regards radiation and absorption, holds good; and could we, without otherwise altering its physical character, render that nitrous gas luminous, we should find that the very rays which it absorbs are precisely those which it would emit. When atmospheric air and other gases are brought to a state of intense incandescence by the passage of an electric spark, the spectra which we obtain from them consist of a series of bright bands. But such spectra are produced with the greatest brilliancy when, instead of ordinary gases, we make use of metals heated so highly as to volatilise them. This is easily done by the voltaic current. A capsule of carbon filled with mercury, which formed the positive electrode of the electric lamp, has a carbon point brought down upon it. On separating the one from the other, a brilliant arc containing the mercury in a volatilised condition passes between them. The spectrum of this arc is not continuous like that of the solid carbon points, but consists of a series of vivid bands, each corresponding in colour to that particular portion of the spectrum to which its rays belong. Copper gives its system of bands; zinc gives its system; and brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, gives a spectrum made up of the bands belonging to both metals.

Not only, however, when metals are united like zinc and copper to form an alloy, is it possible to obtain the bands which belong to them. No matter how we may disguise the metal—allowing it to unite with oxygen to form an oxide, and this again with an acid to form a salt; if the heat applied be sufficiently intense, the bands belonging to the metal reveal themselves with perfect definition. Into holes drilled in a cylinder of retort carbon, pure culinary salt is introduced. When the carbon is made the positive electrode of the lamp, the resultant spectrum shows the brilliant yellow lines of the metal sodium. Similar experiments made with the chlorides of strontium, calcium, lithium, [Footnote: The vividness of the colours of the lithium spectrum is extraordinary; the spectrum, moreover, contained a blue band of indescribable splendour. It was thought by many, during the discourse, that I had mistaken strontium for lithium, as this blue band had never before been seen. I have obtained it many times since; and my friend Dr. Miller, having kindly analysed the substance made use of, pronounces it pure chloride of lithium.—J. T.] and other metals, give the bands due to the respective metals. When different salts are mixed together, and rammed into holes in the carbon; a spectrum is obtained which contains the bands of them all.

The position of these bright bands never varies, and each metal has its own system. Hence the competent observer can infer from the bands of the spectrum the metals which produce it. It is a language addressed to the eye instead of the ear; and the certainty would not be augmented if each metal possessed the power of audibly calling out, 'I am here!' Nor is this language affected by distance. If we find that the sun or the stars give us the bands of our terrestrial metals, it is a declaration on the part of these orbs that such metals enter into their composition. Does the sun give us any such intimation? Does the solar spectrum exhibit bright lines which we might compare with those produced by our terrestrial metals, and prove either their identity or difference? No. The solar spectrum, when closely examined, gives us a multitude of fine dark lines instead of bright ones. They were first noticed by Dr. Wollaston, but were multiplied and investigated with profound skill by Fraunhofer, and named after him Fraunhofer's lines. They had been long a standing puzzle to philosophers. The bright lines yielded by metallic vapours had been also known to us for years; but the connection between both classes of phenomena was wholly unknown, until Kirchhoff, with admirable acuteness, revealed the secret, and placed it at the same time in our power to chemically analyse the sun.

We have now some difficult work before us. Hitherto we have been delighted by objects which addressed themselves as much to our aesthetic taste as to our scientific faculty; we have ridden pleasantly to the base of the final cone of Etna, and must now dismount and march through ashes and lava, if we would enjoy the prospect from the summit. Our problem is to connect the dark lines of Fraunhofer with the bright ones of the metals. The white beam of the lamp is refracted in passing through our two prisms, but its different components are refracted in different degrees, and thus its colours are drawn apart.

Now the colour depends solely upon the rate of oscillation of the atoms of the luminous body; red light being produced by one rate, blue light by a much quicker rate, and the colours between red and blue by the intermediate rates. The solid incandescent coal-points give us a continuous spectrum; or in other words they emit rays of all possible periods between the two extremes of the spectrum. Colour, as many of you know, is to light what pitch is to sound. When a violin-player presses his finger on a string he makes it shorter and tighter, and thus, causing it to vibrate more speedily, heightens the pitch. Imagine such a player to move his fingers slowly along the string, shortening it gradually as he draws his bow, the note would rise in pitch by a regular gradation; there would be no gap intervening between note and note. Here we have the analogue to the continuous spectrum, whose colours insensibly blend together without gap or interruption, from the red of the lowest pitch to the violet of the highest. But suppose the player, instead of gradually shortening his string, to press his finger on a certain point, and to sound the corresponding note; then to pass on to another point more or less distant, and sound its note; then to another, and so on, thus sounding particular notes separated from each other by gaps which correspond to the intervals of the string passed over; we should then have the exact analogue of a spectrum composed of separate bright bands with intervals of darkness between them. But this, though a perfectly true and intelligible analogy, is not sufficient for our purpose; we must look with the mind's eye at the oscillating atoms of the volatilised metal.

Figure these atoms as connected together by springs of a certain tension, which, if the atoms are squeezed together, push them again asunder, and if the atoms are drawn apart, pull them again together, causing them, before coming to rest, to quiver for a certain time at a certain definite rate determined by the strength of the spring. Now the volatilised metal which gives us one bright band is to be figured as having its atoms united by springs all of the same tension, its vibrations are all of one kind. The metal which gives us two bands may be figured as having some of its atoms united by springs of one tension, and others by springs of a different tension. Its vibrations are of two distinct kinds; so also when we have three or more bands we are to figure as many distinct sets of springs, each capable of vibrating in its own particular time and at a different rate from the others. If we seize this idea definitely, we shall have no difficulty in dropping the metaphor of springs, and substituting for it mentally the forces by which the atoms act upon each other. Having thus far cleared our way, let us make another effort to advance.

A heavy ivory ball is here suspended from a string. I blow against this ball; a single puff of my breath moves it a little way from its position of rest; it swings back towards me, and when it reaches the limit of its swing I puff again. It now swings further; and thus by timing the puffs I can so accumulate their action as to produce oscillations of large amplitude. The ivory ball here has absorbed the motion which my breath communicated to the air. I now bring the ball to rest. Suppose, instead of the breath, a wave of air to strike against it, and that this wave is followed by a series of others which succeed each other exactly in the same intervals as my puffs; it is obvious that these waves would communicate their motion to the ball and cause it to swing as the puffs did. And it is equally manifest that this would not be the case if the impulses of the waves were not properly timed; for then the motion imparted to the pendulum by one wave would be neutralised by another, and there could not be the accumulation of effect obtained when the periods of the waves correspond with the periods of the pendulum. So much for the particular impulses absorbed by the pendulum. But if such a pendulum set oscillating in air could produce waves in the air, it is evident that the waves it would produce would be of the same period as those whose motions it would take up or absorb most completely, if they struck against it. Perhaps the most curious effect of these timed impulses ever described was that observed by a watchmaker, named Ellicott, in the year 1741. He left two clocks leaning against the same rail; one of them, which we may call A, was set going; the other, B, not. Some time afterwards he found, to his surprise, that B was ticking also. The pendulums being of the same length, the shocks imparted by the ticking of A to the rail against which both clocks rested were propagated to B, and were so timed as to set B going. Other curious effects were at the same time observed. When, the pendulums differed from each other a certain amount, set B going, but the reaction of B stopped A. Then B set A going, and the re-action of A stopped B. When the periods of oscillation were close to each other, but still not quite alike, the clocks mutually controlled each other, and by a kind of compromise they ticked in perfect unison.

But what has all this to do with our present subject? The varied actions of the universe are all modes of motion; and the vibration of a ray claims strict brotherhood with the vibrations of our pendulum. Suppose aethereal waves striking upon atoms which oscillate in the same periods as the waves, the motion of the waves will be absorbed by the atoms; suppose we send our beam of white light through a sodium flame, the atoms of that flame will be chiefly affected by those undulations which are synchronous with their own periods of vibration. There will be on the part of those particular rays a transference of motion from the agitated aether to the atoms of the volatilised metal, which, as already defined, is absorption.

The experiment justifying this conclusion is now for the first time to be made before a public audience. I pass a beam through our two prisms, and the spectrum spreads its colours upon the screen. Between the lamp and the prism I interpose a snapdragon light. Alcohol and water are here mixed with common salt, and the metal dish that holds them is heated by a spirit-lamp. The vapour from the mixture ignites and we have a monochromatic flame. Through this flame the beam from the lamp is now passing; and observe the result upon the spectrum. You see a shady band cut out of the yellow,—not very dark, but sufficiently so to be seen by everybody present.

But let me exalt this effect. Placing in front of the electric lamp the intense flame of a large Bunsen's burner, a platinum capsule containing a bit of sodium less than a pea in magnitude is plunged into the flame. The sodium soon volatilises and burns with brilliant incandescence. The beam crosses the flame, and at the same time the yellow band of the spectrum is clearly and sharply cut out, a band of intense darkness occupying its place. On withdrawing the sodium, the brilliant yellow of the spectrum takes its proper place, while the reintroduction of the flame causes the band to reappear.

Let me be more precise: The yellow colour of the spectrum extends over a sensible space, blending on one side with the orange and on the other with the green. The term 'yellow band' is therefore somewhat indefinite. This vagueness may be entirely removed. By dipping the carbon-point used for the positive electrode into a solution of common salt, and replacing it in the lamp, the bright yellow band produced by the sodium vapour stands out from the spectrum. When the sodium flame is caused to act upon the beam it is that particular yellow band that is obliterated, an intensely black streak occupying its place.

An additional step of reasoning leads to the conclusion that if, instead of the flame of sodium alone, we were to introduce into the path of the beam a flame in which lithium, strontium, magnesium, calcium, &c, are in a state of volatilisation, each metallic vapour would cut out a system of bands, corresponding exactly in position with the bright bands of the same metallic vapour. The light of our electric lamp shining through such a composite flame would give us a spectrum cut up by dark lines, exactly as the solar spectrum is cut up by the lines of Fraunhofer.

Thus by the combination of the strictest reasoning with the most conclusive experiment, we reach the solution of one of the grandest of scientific problems—the constitution of the sun. The sun consists of a nucleus surrounded by a flaming atmosphere. The light of the nucleus would give us a continuous spectrum, like that of our common carbon-points; but having to pass through the photosphere, as our beam had to pass through the flame, those rays of the nucleus which the photosphere can itself emit are absorbed, and shaded spaces, corresponding to the particular rays absorbed, occur in the spectrum. Abolish the solar nucleus, and we should have a spectrum showing a bright line in the place of every dark line of Fraunhofer. These lines are therefore not absolutely dark, but dark by an amount corresponding to the difference between the light of the nucleus intercepted by the photosphere, and the light which issues from the latter.

The man to whom we owe this noble generalisation is Kirchhoff, Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Heidelberg; [Footnote: Now Professor in the University of Berlin.] but, like every other great discovery, it is compounded of various elements. Mr. Talbot observed the bright lines in the spectra of coloured flames. Sixteen years ago Dr. Miller gave drawings and descriptions of the spectra of various coloured flames. Wheatstone, with his accustomed ingenuity, analysed the light of the electric spark, and showed that the metals between which the spark passed determined the bright bands in the spectrum of the spark. Masson published a prize essay on these bands; Van der Willigen, and more recently Plucker, have given us beautiful drawings of the spectra, obtained from the discharge of Ruhmkorff's coil. But none of these distinguished men betrayed the least knowledge of the connection between the bright bands of the metals and the dark lines of the solar spectrum. The man who came nearest to the philosophy of the subject was Angstrom. In a paper translated from Poggendorff's 'Annalen' by myself, and published in the 'Philosophical Magazine' for 1855, he indicates that the rays which a body absorbs are precisely those which it can emit when rendered luminous. In another place, he speaks of one of his spectra giving the general impression of a reversal of the solar spectrum. Foucault, Stokes, and Thomson, have all been very close to the discovery; and, for my own part, the examination of the radiation and absorption of heat by gases and vapours, some of the results of which I placed before you at the commencement of this discourse, would have led me in 1859 to the law on which all Kirchhoff's speculations are founded, had not an accident withdrawn me from the investigation. But Kirchhoff's claims are unaffected by these circumstances. True, much that I have referred to formed the necessary basis of his discovery; so did the laws of Kepler furnish to Newton the basis of the theory of gravitation. But what Kirchhoff has done carries us far beyond all that had before been accomplished. He has introduced the order of law amid a vast assemblage of empirical observations, and has ennobled our previous knowledge by showing its relationship to some of the most sublime of natural phenomena.




WE have no reason to believe that the sheep or the dog, or indeed any of the lower animals, feel an interest in the laws by which natural phenomena are regulated. A herd may be terrified by a thunderstorm; birds may go to roost, and cattle return to their stalls, during a solar eclipse; but neither birds nor cattle, as far as we know, ever think of enquiring into the causes of these things. It is otherwise with Man. The presence of natural objects, the occurrence of natural events, the varied appearances of the universe in which he dwells penetrate beyond his organs of sense, and appeal to an inner power of which the senses are the mere instruments and excitants. No fact is to him either original or final. He cannot limit himself to the contemplation of it alone, but endeavours to ascertain its position in a series to which uniform experience assures him it must belong. He regards all that he witnesses in the present as the efflux and sequence of something that has gone before, and as the source of a system of events which is to follow. The notion of spontaneity, by which in his ruder state he accounted for natural events, is abandoned; the idea that nature is an aggregate of independent parts also disappears, as the connection and mutual dependence of physical powers become more and more manifest: until he is finally led to regard Nature as an organic whole—as a body each of whose members sympathises with the rest, changing, it is true, from age to age, but changing without break of continuity in the relation of cause and effect.

The system of things which we call Nature is, however, too vast and various to be studied first-hand by any single mind. As knowledge extends there is always a tendency to subdivide the field of investigation. Its various parts are taken up by different minds, and thus receive a greater amount of attention than could possibly be bestowed on them if each investigator aimed at the mastery of the whole. The centrifugal form in which knowledge, as a whole, advances, spreading ever wider on all sides, is due in reality to the exertions of individuals, each of whom directs his efforts, more or less, along a single line. Accepting, in many respects, his culture from his fellow-men—taking it from spoken words or from written books—in some one direction, the student of Nature ought actually to touch his work. He may otherwise be a distributor of knowledge, but not a creator, and he fails to attain that vitality of thought, and correctness of judgment, which direct and habitual contact with natural truth can alone impart.

One large department of the system of Nature which forms the chief subject of my own studies, and to which it is my duty to call your attention this evening, is that of physics, or natural philosophy. This term is large enough to cover the study of Nature generally, but it is usually restricted to a department which, perhaps, lies closer to our perceptions than any other. It deals with the phenomena and laws of light and heat—with the phenomena and laws of magnetism and electricity—with those of sound—with the pressures and motions of liquids and gases, whether at rest or in a state of translation or of undulation. The science of mechanics is a portion of natural philosophy, though at present so large as to need the exclusive attention of him who would cultivate it profoundly. Astronomy is the application of physics to the motions of the heavenly bodies, the vastness of the field causing it, however, to bed regarded as a department in itself. In chemistry physical agents play important parts. By heat and light we cause atoms and molecules to unite or to fall asunder. Electricity exerts a similar power. Through their ability to separate nutritive compounds into their constituents, the solar beams build up the whole vegetable world, and by it the animal world. The touch of the self-same beams causes hydrogen and chlorine to; unite with sudden explosion, and to form by their combination a powerful acid. Thus physics and chemistry intermingle. Physical agents are, however, employed by the chemist as a means to an end; while in physics proper the laws and phenomena of the agents themselves, both qualitative and quantitative, are the primary objects of attention.

My duty here to-night is to spend an hour in telling how this subject is to be studied, and how a knowledge of it is to be imparted to others. From the domain of physics, which would be unmanageable as a whole, I select as a sample the subject of magnetism. I might readily entertain you on the present occasion with an account of what natural philosophy has accomplished. I might point to those applications of science of which we hear so much in the newspapers, and which are so often mistaken for science itself. I might, of course, ring changes on the steam-engine and the telegraph, the electrotype and the photograph, the medical applications of physics, and the various other inlets by which scientific thought filters into practical life. That would be easy compared with the task of informing you how you are to make the study of physics the instrument of your pupil's culture; how you are to possess its facts and make them living seeds which shall take root and grow in the mind, and not lie like dead lumber in the storehouse of memory. This is a task much heavier than the mere recounting of scientific achievements; and it is one which, feeling my own want of time to execute it aright, I might well hesitate to accept.

But let me sink excuses, and attack the work before me. First and foremost, then, I would advise you to get a knowledge of facts from actual observation. Facts looked at directly are vital; when they pass into words half the sap is taken out of them. You wish, for example, to get a knowledge of magnetism; well, provide yourself with a good book on the subject, if you can, but do not be content with what the book tells you; do not be satisfied with its descriptive woodcuts; see the operations of the force yourself. Half of our book writers describe experiments which they never made, and their descriptions often lack both force and truth; but, no matter how clever or conscientious they may be, their written words cannot supply the place of actual observation. Every fact has numerous radiations, which are shorn off by the man who describes it.

Go, then, to a philosophical instrument maker, and give a shilling or half a crown for a straight bar-magnet, or, if you can afford it, purchase a pair of them; or get a smith to cut a length of ten inches from a bar of steel an inch wide and half an inch thick; file its ends smoothly, harden it, and get somebody like myself to magnetise it. Procure some darning needles, and also a little unspun silk, which will give you a suspending fibre void of torsion. Make little loop of paper, or of wire, and attach your fibre to it. Do it neatly. In the loop place a darning-needle, and bring the two ends or poles, as they are called, of your bar-magnet successively up to the ends of the needle. Both the poles, you find, attract both ends of the needle. Replace the needle by a bit of annealed iron wire; the same effects ensue. Suspend successively little rods of lead, copper, silver, brass, wood, glass, ivory, or whalebone; the magnet produces no sensible effect upon any of the substances. You thence infer a special property in the case of steel and iron. Multiply your experiments, However, and you will find that some other substances, besides iron and steel, are acted upon by your magnet. A rod of the metal nickel, or of the metal cobalt, from which the blue colour used by painters is derived, exhibits powers similar to those observed with the iron and steel.

In studying the character of the force you may, however, confine yourself to iron and steel, which are always at hand. Make your experiments with the darning-needle over and over again; operate on both ends of the needle; try both ends of the magnet. Do not think the work dull; you are conversing with Nature, and must acquire over her language a certain grace and mastery, which practice can alone impart. Let every movement be made with care, and avoid slovenliness, from the outset. Experiment, as I have said, is the language by which we address Nature, and through which she sends her replies; in the use of this language a lack of straightforwardness is as possible, and as prejudicial, as in the spoken language of the tongue. If, therefore, you wish to become acquainted with the truth of Nature, you must from the first resolve to deal with her sincerely.

Now remove your needle from its loop, and draw it from eye to point along one of the ends of the magnet; resuspend it, and repeat your former experiment. You now find that each extremity of the magnet attracts one end of the needle, and repels the other. The simple attraction observed in the first instance, is now replaced by a dual force. Repeat the experiment till you have thoroughly observed the ends which attract and those which repel each other.

Withdraw the magnet entirely from the vicinity of your needle, and leave the latter freely suspended by its fibre. Shelter it as well as you can from currents of air, and if you have iron buttons on your coat, or a steel penknife in your pocket, beware of their action. If you work at night, beware of iron candlesticks, or of brass ones with iron rods inside. Freed from such disturbances, the needle takes up a certain determinate position. It sets its length nearly north and south. Draw it aside and let it go. After several oscillations it will again come to the same position. If you have obtained your magnet from a philosophical instrument maker, you will see a mark on one of its ends. Supposing, then, that you drew your needle along the end thus marked, and that the point of your needle was the last to quit the magnet, you will find that the point turns to the south, the eye of the needle turning towards the north. Make sure of this, and do not take the statement on my authority.

Now take a second darning-needle like the first, and magnetise it in precisely the same manner: freely suspended it also will turn its eye to the north and its point to the south. Your next step is to examine the action of the two needles which you have thus magnetised upon each other.

Take one of them in your hand, and leave the other suspended; bring the eye-end of the former near the eye-end of the latter; the suspended needle retreats: it is repelled. Make the same experiment with the two points; you obtain the same result, the suspended needle is repelled. Now cause the dissimilar ends to act on each other—you have attraction—point attracts eye, and eye attracts point. Prove the reciprocity of this action by removing the suspended needle, and putting the other in its place. You obtain the same result. The attraction, then, is mutual, and the repulsion U mutual. You have thus demonstrated in the clearest manner the fundamental law of magnetism, that like poles repel, and that unlike poles attract, each other. You may say that this is all easily understood without doing; but do it, and your knowledge will not be confined to what I have uttered here.

I have said that one end of your bar magnet has a mark upon it; lay several silk fibres together, so as to get sufficient strength, or employ a thin silk ribbon, and form a loop large enough to hold your magnet. Suspend it; it turns its marked end towards the north. This marked end is that which in England is called the north pole. If a common smith has made your magnet, it will be convenient to determine its north pole yourself, and to mark it with a file. Vary your experiments by causing your magnetised darning-needle to attract and repel your large magnet; it is quite competent to do so. In magnetising the needle, I have supposed the point to be the last to quit the marked end of the magnet; the point of the needle is a south pole. The end which last quits the magnet is always opposed in polarity to the end of the magnet with which it, has been last in contact.

You may perhaps learn all this in a single hour; but spend several at it, if necessary; and remember, understanding it is not sufficient: you must obtain a manual aptitude in addressing Nature. If you speak to your fellow-man you are not entitled to use jargon. Bad experiments are jargon addressed to Nature, and just as much to be deprecated. Manual dexterity in illustrating the interaction of magnetic poles is of the utmost importance at this stage of your progress; and you must not neglect attaining this power over your implements. As you proceed, moreover, you will be tempted to do more than I can possibly suggest. Thoughts will occur to you which you will endeavour to follow out: questions will arise which you will try to answer. The same experiment may be twenty different things to twenty people. Having witnessed the action of pole on pole, through the air, you will perhaps try whether the magnetic power is not to be screened off. You use plates of glass, wood, slate, pasteboard, or gutta-percha, but find them all pervious to this wondrous force. One magnetic pole acts upon another through these bodies as if they were not present. Should you ever become a patentee for the regulation of ships' compasses, you will not fall, as some projectors have done, into the error of screening off the magnetism of the ship by the interposition of such substances.

If you wish to teach a class you must contrive that the effects which you have thus far witnessed for yourself shall be witnessed by twenty or thirty pupils. And here your private ingenuity must come into play. You will attach bits of paper to your needles, so as to render their movements visible at a distance, denoting the north and south poles by different colours, say green and red. You may also improve upon your darning-needle. Take a strip of sheet steel, heat it to vivid redness and plunge it into cold water. It is thereby hardened; rendered, in fact, almost as brittle as glass. Six inches of this, magnetised in the manner of the darning-needle, will be better able to carry your paper indexes. Having secured such a strip, you proceed thus:

Magnetise a small sewing-needle and determine its poles; or, break half an inch, or an inch, off your magnetised darning-needle and suspend it by a fine silk fibre. The sewing-needle, or the fragment of the darning needle, is now to be used as a test-needle, to examine the distribution of the magnetism in your strip of steel. Hold the strip upright in your left hand, and cause the test-needle to approach the lower end of your strip; one end of the test-needle is attracted, the other is repelled. Raise your needle along the strip; its oscillations, which at first were quick, become slower; opposite the middle of the strip they cease entirely; neither end of the needle is attracted; above the middle the test-needle turns suddenly round, its other end being now attracted. Go through the experiment thoroughly: you thus learn that the entire lower half of the strip attracts one end of the needle, while the entire upper half attracts the opposite end. Supposing the north end of your little needle to be that attracted below, you infer that the entire lower half of your magnetised strip exhibits south magnetism, while the entire upper half exhibits north magnetism. So far, then, you have determined the distribution of magnetism in your strip of steel.

You look at this fact, you think of it; in its suggestiveness the value of an experiment chiefly consists. The thought naturally arises: 'What will occur if I break my strip of steel across in the middle? Shall I obtain two magnets each possessing a single pole?' Try the experiment; break your strip of steel, and test each half as you tested the whole. The mere presentation of its two ends in succession to your test-needle, suffices to show that you have not a magnet with a single pole—that each half possesses two poles with a neutral point between them. And if you again break the half into two other halves, you will find that each quarter of the original strip exhibits precisely the same magnetic distribution as the whole strip. You may continue the breaking process: no matter how small your fragment may be, it still possesses two opposite poles and a neutral point between them. Well, your hand ceases to break where breaking becomes a mechanical impossibility; but does the mind stop there? No: you follow the breaking process in idea when you can no longer realise it in fact; your thoughts wander amid the very atoms of your steel, and you conclude that each atom is a magnet, and that the force exerted by the strip of steel is the mere summation, or resultant, of the forces of its ultimate particles.

Here, then, is an exhibition of power which we can call forth at pleasure or cause to disappear. We magnetise our strip, of steel by drawing it along the pole of a magnet; we can demagnetise it, or reverse its magnetism, by properly drawing it along the same pole in the opposite direction. What, then, is the real nature of this wondrous change? What is it that takes place among the atoms of the steel when the substance is magnetised? The question leads us beyond the region of sense, and into that of imagination. This faculty, indeed, is the divining-rod of the man of science. Not, however, an imagination which catches its creations from the air, but one informed and inspired by facts; capable of seizing firmly on a physical image as a principle, of discerning its consequences, and of devising means whereby these forecasts of thought may be brought to an experimental test. If such a principle be adequate to account for all the phenomena—if from an assumed cause the observed acts necessarily follow, we call the assumption a theory, and, once possessing it, we can not only revive at pleasure facts already known, but we can predict others which we have never seen. Thus, then, in the prosecution of physical science, our powers of observation, memory, imagination, and inference, are all drawn upon. We observe facts and store them up; the constructive imagination broods upon these memories, tries to discern their interdependence and weave them to an organic whole. The theoretic principle flashes or slowly dawns upon the mind; and then the deductive faculty interposes to carry out the principle to its logical consequences. A perfect theory gives dominion over natural facts; and even an assumption which can only partially stand the test of a comparison with facts, may be of eminent use in enabling us to connect and classify groups of phenomena. The theory of magnetic fluids is of this latter character, and with it we must now make ourselves familiar.

With the view of stamping the thing more firmly on your minds, I will make use of a strong and vivid image. In optics, red and green are called complementary colours; their mixture produces white. Now I ask you to imagine each of these colours to possess a self-repulsive power; that red repels red, that green repels green; but that red attracts green and green attracts red, the attraction of the dissimilar colours being equal to the repulsion of the similar ones. Imagine the two colours mixed so as to produce white, and suppose two strips of wood painted with this white-; what will be their action upon each other? Suspend one of them freely as we suspended our darning-needle, and bring the other near it; what will occur? The red component of the strip you hold in your hand will repel the red component of your suspended strip; but then it will attract the green, and, the forces being equal, they neutralise each other. In fact, the least reflection shows you that the strips will be as indifferent to each other as two unmagnetised darning-needles would be under the same circumstances.

But suppose, instead of mixing the colours, we painted one half of each strip from centre to end red, and the other half green, it is perfectly manifest that the two strips would now behave towards each other exactly as our two magnetised darning-needles—the red end would repel the red and attract the green, the green would repel the green and attract the red; so that, assuming two colours thus related to each other, we could by their mixture produce the neutrality of an unmagnetised body, while by their separation we could produce the duality of action of magnetised bodies.

But you have already anticipated a defect in my conception; for if we break one of our strips of wood in the middle we have one half entirely red, and the other entirely green, and with these it would be impossible to imitate the action of our broken magnet. How, then, must we modify our conception? We must evidently suppose each molecule of the wood painted green on one face and red on the opposite one. The resultant action of all the atoms would then exactly resemble the action of a magnet. Here also, if the two opposite colours of each atom could be caused to mix so as to produce white, we should have, as before, perfect neutrality.

For these two self-repellent and mutually attractive colours, substitute in your minds two invisible self-repellent and mutually attractive fluids, which in ordinary steel are mixed to form a neutral compound, but which the act of magnetisation separates from each other, placing the opposite fluids on the opposite face of each molecule. You have then a perfectly distinct conception of the celebrated theory of magnetic fluids. The strength of the magnetism excited is supposed to be proportional to the quantity of neutral fluid decomposed. According to this theory nothing is actually transferred from the exciting magnet to the excited steel. The act of magnetisation consists in the forcible separation of two fluids which existed in the steel before it was magnetised, but which then neutralised each other by their coalescence. And if you test your magnet, after it has excited a hundred pieces of steel, you will find that it has lost no force—no more, indeed, than I should lose, had my words such a magnetic influence on your minds as to excite in them a strong resolve to study natural philosophy. I should rather be the gainer by my own utterance, and by the reaction of your fervour. The magnet also is the gainer by the reaction of the body which it magnetises.

Look now to your excited piece of steel; figure each molecule with its opposed fluids spread over its opposite faces. How can this state of things be permanent? The fluids, by hypothesis, attract each other; what, then, keeps them apart? Why do they not instantly rush together across the equator of the atom, and thus neutralise each other? To meet this question philosophers have been obliged to infer the existence of a special force, which holds the fluids asunder. They call it coercive force; and it is found that those kinds of steel which offer most resistance to being magnetised—which require the greatest amount of 'coercion' to tear their fluids asunder—are the very ones which offer the greatest resistance to the reunion of the fluids, after they have been once separated. Such kinds of steel are most suited to the formation of permanent magnets. It is manifest, indeed, that without coercive force a permanent magnet would not be at all possible.

Probably long before this you will have dipped the end of your magnet among iron filings, and observed how they cling to it; or into a nail-box, and found how it drags the nails after it. I know very well that if you are not the slaves of routine, you will have by this time done many things that I have not told you to do, and thus multiplied your experience beyond what I have indicated. You are almost sure to have caused a bit of iron to hang from the end of your magnet, and you have probably succeeded in causing a second bit to attach itself to the first, a third to the second; until finally the force has become too feeble to bear the weight of more. If you have operated with nails, you may have observed that the points and edges hold together with the greatest tenacity; and that a bit of iron clings more firmly to the corner of your magnet than to one of its flat surfaces. In short, you will in all likelihood have enriched your experience in many ways without any special direction from me.

Well, the magnet attracts the nail, and the nail attracts a second one. This proves that the nail in contact with the magnet has had the magnetic quality developed in it by that contact. If it be withdrawn from the magnet its power to attract its fellow nail ceases. Contact, however, is not necessary. A sheet of glass or paper, or a space of air, may exist between the magnet and the nail; the latter is still magnetised, though not so forcibly as when in actual contact. The nail thus presented to the magnet is itself a temporary magnet. That end which is turned towards the magnetic pole has the opposite magnetism of the pole which excites it; the end most remote from the pole has the same magnetism as the pole itself, and between the two poles the nail, like the magnet, possesses a magnetic equator.

Conversant as you now are with the theory of magnetic fluids, you have already, I doubt not, anticipated me in imagining the exact condition of an iron nail under the influence of the magnet. You picture the iron as possessing the neutral fluid in abundance; you picture the magnetic pole, when brought near, decomposing the fluid; repelling the fluid of a like kind with itself, and attracting the unlike fluid; thus exciting in the parts of the iron nearest to itself the opposite polarity. But the iron is incapable of becoming a permanent magnet. It only shows its virtue as long as the magnet acts upon it. What, then, does the iron lack which the steel possesses? It lacks coercive force. Its fluids are separated with ease; but, once the separating cause is removed, they flow together again, and neutrality is restored. Imagination must be quite nimble in picturing these changes—able to see the fluids dividing and reuniting, according as the magnet is brought near or withdrawn. Fixing a definite pole in your mind, you must picture the precise arrangement of the two fluids with reference to this pole, and be able to arouse similar pictures in the minds of your pupils. You will cause them to place magnets and iron in various positions, and describe the exact magnetic state of the iron in each particular case. The mere facts of magnetism will have their interest immensely augmented by an acquaintance with the principles whereon the facts depend. Still, while you use this theory of magnetic fluids to track out the phenomena and link them together, you will not forget to tell your pupils that it is to be regarded as a symbol merely,—a symbol, moreover, which is incompetent to cover all the facts, but which does good practical service whilst we are waiting for the actual truth. [Footnote: This theory breaks down when applied to diamagnetic bodies which are repelled by magnets. Like soft iron, such bodies are thrown into a state of temporary excitement, in virtue of which they are repelled; but any attempt to explain such a repulsion by the decomposition of a fluid will demonstrate its own futility.]

The state of excitement into which iron is thrown by the influence, of a magnet, is sometimes called 'magnetisation by influence.' More commonly, however, the magnetism is said to be 'induced' in the iron, and hence this mode of magnetising is called 'magnetic induction.' Now, there is nothing theoretically perfect in Nature: there is no iron so soft as not to possess a certain amount of coercive force, and no steel so hard as not to be capable, in some degree, of magnetic induction. The quality of steel is in some measure possessed by iron, and the quality of iron is shared in some degree by steel. It is in virtue of this latter fact that the unmagnetised darning-needle was attracted in your first experiment; and from this you may at once deduce the consequence that, after the steel has been magnetised, the repulsive action of a magnet must be always less than its attractive action. For the repulsion is opposed by the inductive action of the magnet on the steel, while the attraction is assisted by the same inductive action. Make this clear to your minds, and verify it by your experiments. In some cases you can actually make the attraction due to the temporary magnetism overbalance the repulsion due to the permanent magnetism, and thus cause two poles of the same kind apparently to attract each other. When, however, good hard magnets act on each other from a sufficient distance, the inductive action practically vanishes, and the repulsion of like poles is sensibly equal to the attraction of unlike ones.

I dwell thus long on elementary principles, because they are of the first importance, and it is the temptation of this age of unhealthy cramming to neglect them. Now follow me a little farther. In examining the distribution of magnetism in your strip of steel you raised the needle slowly from bottom to top, and found what we called a neutral point at the centre.

Now does the magnet really exert no influence on the pole presented to its centre? Let us see.

Let SN, fig. 13, be our magnet, and let n represent a particle of north magnetism placed exactly opposite the middle of the magnet. Of course this is an imaginary case, as you can never in reality thus detach your north magnetism from its neighbour. But supposing us to have done so, what would be the action of the two poles of the magnet on n? Your reply will of course be that the pole S attracts n while the pole N repels it. Let the magnitude and direction of the attraction be expressed by the line n m, and the magnitude and direction of the repulsion by the line n o. Now, the particle n being equally distant from s and N, the line n o, expressing the repulsion, will be equal to m n, which expresses the attraction. Acted upon by two such forces, the particle n must evidently move in the direction n p, exactly midway between m n and n o. Hence you see that, although there is no tendency of the particle n to move towards the magnetic equator, there is a tendency on its part to move parallel to the magnet. If, instead of a particle of north magnetism, we placed a particle of south magnetism opposite to the magnetic equator, it would evidently be urged along the line n q; and if, instead of two separate particles of magnetism, we place a little magnetic needle, containing both north and south magnetism, opposite the magnetic equator, its south pole being urged along n q, and its north along n p, the little needle will be compelled to set itself parallel to the magnet s N. Make the experiment, and satisfy yourselves that this is a true deduction.

Substitute for your magnetic needle a bit of iron wire, devoid of permanent magnetism, and it will set itself exactly as the needle does. Acted upon by the magnet, the wire, as you know, becomes a magnet and behaves as such; it will turn its north pole towards p, and south pole towards q, just like the needle.

But supposing you shift the position of your particle of north magnetism, and bring it nearer to one end of your magnet than to the other; the forces acting on the particle are no longer equal; the nearest pole of the magnet will act more powerfully on the particle than the more distant one. Let SN, fig. 14, be the magnet, and n the particle of north magnetism, in its new position. It is repelled by N, and attracted by S. Let the repulsion be represented in magnitude and direction by the line n o, and the attraction by the shorter line n M. The resultant of these two forces will be found by completing the parallelogram m n o p, and drawing its diagonal n p. Along n p, then, a particle of north magnetism would be urged by the simultaneous action of S and N. Substituting a particle of south magnetism for n, the same reasoning would lead to the conclusion that the particle would be urged along it q. If we place at n a short magnetic needle, its north pole will be urged along n p, its south pole along n q, the only position possible to the needle, thus acted on, being along the line p q, which is no longer parallel to the magnet. Verify this deduction by actual experiment.

In this way we might go round the entire magnet; and, considering its two poles as two centres from which the force emanates, we could, in accordance with ordinary mechanical principles, assign a definite direction to the magnetic needle at every particular place. And substituting, as before, a bit of iron wire for the magnetic needle, the positions of both will be the same.

Now, I think, without further preface, you will be able' to comprehend for yourselves, and explain to others, one of the most interesting effects in the whole domain of magnetism. Iron filings you know are particles of iron, irregular in shape, being longer in some directions than in others. For the present experiment, moreover, instead of the iron filings, very small scraps of thin iron wire might be employed. I place a sheet of paper over the magnet; it is all the better if the paper be stretched on a wooden frame as this enables us to keep it quite level. I scatter the filings, or the scraps of wire, from a sieve upon the paper, and tap the latter gently, so as to liberate the particles for a moment from its friction. The magnet acts on the filings through the paper, and see how it arranges them! They embrace the magnet in a series of beautiful curves, which are technically called 'magnetic curves,' or 'lines of magnetic force.' Does the meaning of these lines yet flash upon you? Set your magnetic needle, or your suspended bit of wire, at any point of one of the curves, and you will find the direction of the needle, or of the wire, to be exactly that of the particle of iron, or of the magnetic curve, at that point. Go round and round the magnet; the direction of your needle always coincides with the direction of the curve on which it is placed. These, then, are the lines along which a particle of south magnetism, if you could detach it, would move to the north pole, and a bit of north magnetism to the south pole. They are the lines along which the decomposition of the neutral fluid takes place. In the case of the magnetic needle, one of its poles being urged in one direction, and the other pole in the opposite direction, the needle must necessarily set itself as a tangent to the curve. I will not seek to simplify this subject further. If there be anything obscure or confused or incomplete in my statement, you ought now, by patient thought, to be able to clear away the obscurity, to reduce the confusion to order, and to supply what is needed to render the explanation complete. Do not quit the subject until you thoroughly understand it; and if you are then able to look with your mind's eye at the play of forces around a magnet, and see distinctly the operation of those forces in the production of the magnetic curves, the time which we have spent together will not have been spent in vain.

FIG. 15.

In this thorough manner we must master our materials, reason upon them, and, by determined study, attain to clearness of conception. Facts thus dealt with exercise an expansive force upon the intellect; they widen the mind to generalisation. We soon recognise a brotherhood between the larger phenomena of Nature and the minute effects which we have observed in our private chambers. Why, we enquire, does the magnetic needle set north and south? Evidently it is compelled to do so by the earth; the great globe which we inherit is itself a magnet. Let us learn a little more about it. By means of a bit of wax, or otherwise, attach the end of your silk fibre to the middle point of your magnetic needle; the needle will thus be uninterfered with by the paper loop, and will enjoy to some extent a power of dipping' its point, or its eye, below the horizon. Lay your bar magnet on a table, and hold the needle over the equator of the magnet. The needle sets horizontal. Move it towards the north end of the magnet; the south end of the needle dips, the dip augmenting as you approach the north pole, over which the needle, if free to move, will set itself exactly vertical. Move it back to the centre, it resumes its horizontality; pass it on towards the south pole, its north end now dips, and directly over the south pole the needle becomes vertical, its north end being now turned downwards. Thus we learn that on the one side of the magnetic equator the north end of the needle dips; on the other side the south end dips, the dip varying from nothing to 90 deg.. If we go to the equatorial regions of the earth with a suitably suspended needle we shall find there the position of the needle horizontal. If we sail north one end of the needle dips; if we sail south the opposite end dips; and over the north or south terrestrial magnetic pole the needle sets vertical. The south magnetic pole has not yet been found, but Sir James Ross discovered the north magnetic pole on June 1, 1831. In this manner we establish a complete parallelism between the action of the earth and that of an ordinary magnet.

The terrestrial magnetic poles do not coincide with the geographical ones; nor does the earth's magnetic equator quite coincide with the geographical equator. The direction of the magnetic needle in London, which is called the magnetic meridian, encloses an angle of 24 deg. with the astronomical meridian, this angle being called the Declination of the needle for London. The north, pole of the needle now lies to the west of the true meridian; the declination is westerly. In the year 1660, however, the declination was nothing, while before that time it was easterly. All this proves that the earth's magnetic constituents are gradually changing their distribution. This change is very slow: it is therefore called the secular change, and the observation of it has not yet extended over a sufficient period to enable us to guess, even approximately, at its laws.

Having thus discovered, to some extent, the secret of the earth's magnetic power, we can turn it to account. In the line of 'dip' I hold a poker formed of good soft iron. The earth, acting as a magnet, is at this moment constraining the two fluids of the poker to separate, making the lower end of the poker a north pole, and the upper end a south pole. Mark the experiment: When the knob is uppermost, it attracts the north end of a magnetic needle; when undermost it attracts the south end of a magnetic needle. With such a poker repeat this experiment and satisfy yourselves that the fluids shift their position according to the manner in which the poker is presented to the earth. It has already been stated that the softest iron possesses a certain amount of coercive force. The earth, at this moment, finds in this force an antagonist which opposes the decomposition of the neutral fluid, The component fluids may be figured as meeting an amount of friction, or possessing an amount of adhesion, which prevents them from gliding over the molecules of the poker. Can we assist the earth in this case? If we wish to remove the residue of a powder from the interior surface of a glass to which the powder clings, we invert the glass, tap it, loosen the hold of the powder, and thus enable the force of gravity to pull it down. So also by tapping the end of the poker we 'loosen the adhesion of the magnetic fluids to the molecules and enable the earth to pull them apart. But, what is the consequence? The portion of fluid which has been thus forcibly dragged over the molecules refuses to return when the poker has been removed from the line of dip; the iron, as you see, has become a permanent magnet. By reversing its position and tapping it again we reverse its magnetism. A thoughtful and competent teacher will know how to place these remarkable facts before his pupils in a manner which will excite their interest. By the use of sensible images, more or less gross, he will first give those whom he teaches definite conceptions, purifying these conceptions afterwards, as the minds of his pupils become more capable of abstraction. By thus giving them a distinct substratum for their reasonings, he will confer upon his pupils a profit and a joy which the mere exhibition of facts without principles, or the appeal to the bodily senses and the power of memory alone, could never inspire.


As an expansion of the note on magnetic fluids, the following extract may find a place here: 'It is well known that a voltaic current exerts an attractive force upon a second current, flowing in the same direction; and that when the directions are opposed to each other the force exerted is a repulsive one. By coiling wires into spirals, Ampere was enabled to make them produce all the phenomena of attraction and repulsion exhibited by magnets, and from this it was but a step to his celebrated theory of molecular currents. He supposed the molecules of a magnetic body to be surrounded by such currents, which, however, in the natural state of the body mutually neutralised each other, on account of their confused grouping. The act of magnetisation he supposed to consist in setting these molecular currents parallel to each other; and, starting from this principle, he reduced all the phenomena of magnetism to the mutual action of electric currents.

'If we reflect upon the experiments recorded in the foregoing pages from first to last, we can hardly fail to be convinced that diamagnetic bodies operated on by magnetic forces possess a polarity "the same in kind as, but the reverse in direction of, that acquired by magnetic bodies." But if this be the case, how are we to conceive the physical mechanism of this polarity? According to Coulomb's and Poisson's theory, the act of magnetisation consists in the decomposition of a neutral magnetic fluid; the north pole of a magnet, for example, possesses an attraction for the south fluid of a piece of soft iron submitted to its influence, draws the said fluid towards it, and with it the material particles with which the fluid is associated. To account for diamagnetic phenomena this theory seems to fail altogether; according to it, indeed, the oft-used phrase, "a north pole exciting a north pole, and a south pole a south pole," involves a contradiction. For if the north fluid be supposed to be attracted towards the influencing north pole, it is absurd to suppose that its presence there could produce repulsion. The theory of Ampere is equally at a loss to explain diamagnetic action; for if we suppose the particles of bismuth surrounded by molecular currents, then, according to all that is known of electrodynamic laws, these currents would set themselves parallel to, and in the same direction as, those of the magnet, and hence attraction, and not repulsion, would be the result. The fact, however, of this not being the case, proves that these molecular currents are not the mechanism by which diamagnetic induction is effected. The consciousness of this, I doubt not, drove M. Weber to the assumption that the phenomena of diamagnetism are produced by molecular currents, not directed, but actually excited in the bismuth by the magnet. Such induced currents would, according to known laws, have a direction opposed to those of the inducing magnet, and hence would produce the phenomena of repulsion. To carry out the assumption here made, M. Weber is obliged to suppose that the molecules of diamagnetic bodies are surrounded by channels, in which the induced molecular currents, once excited, continue to flow without resistance.' [Footnote: In assuming these non-resisting channels M. Weber, it must be admitted, did not go beyond the assumptions of Ampere.]—Diamagnetism and Magne-crystallic Action, p. 136-7.



[Footnote: A discourse delivered in the Royal Institution, June 6, 1862.]

A SPHERE of lead was suspended at a height of 16 feet above the theatre floor of the Royal Institution. It was liberated, and fell by gravity. That weight required a second to fall to the floor from that elevation; and the instant before it touched the floor, it had a velocity of 32 feet a second. That is to say, if at that instant the earth were annihilated, and its attraction annulled, the weight would proceed through space at the uniform velocity of 32 feet a second.

If instead of being pulled downward by gravity, the weight be cast upward in opposition to gravity, then, to reach a height of 16 feet it must start with a velocity of 32 feet a second. This velocity imparted to the weight by the human hand, or by any other mechanical means, would carry it to the precise height from which we saw it fall.

Now the lifting of the weight may be regarded as so much mechanical work performed. By means of a ladder placed against the wall, the weight might be carried up to a height of 16 feet; or it might be drawn up to this height by means of a string and pulley, or it might be suddenly jerked up to a height of 16 feet. The amount of work done in all these cases, as far as the raising of the weight is concerned, would be absolutely the same. The work done at one and the same place, and neglecting the small change of gravity with the height, depends solely upon two things; on the quantity of matter lifted, and on the height to which it is lifted. If we call the quantity or mass of matter m, and the height through which it is lifted h, then the product of m into h, or mh, expresses, or is proportional to, the amount of work done.

Supposing, instead of imparting a velocity of 32 feet a second we impart at starting twice this velocity. To what height will the weight rise? You might be disposed to answer, 'To twice the height;' but this would be quite incorrect. Instead of twice 16, or 32 feet, it would reach a height of four times 16, or 64 feet. So also, if we treble the starting velocity, the weight would reach nine times the height; if we quadruple the speed at starting, we attain sixteen times the height. Thus, with a four-fold velocity of 128 feet a second at starting, the weight would attain an elevation of 256 feet. With a seven-fold velocity at starting, the weight would rise to 49 times the height, or to an elevation of 784 feet.

Now the work done—or, as it is sometimes called, the mechanical effect—other things being constant, is, as before explained, proportional to the height, and as a double velocity gives four times the height, a treble velocity nine times the height, and so on, it is perfectly plain that the mechanical effect increases as the square of the velocity. If the mass of the body be represented by the letter m, and its velocity by v, the mechanical effect would be proportional to or represented by m v2. In the case considered, I have supposed the weight to be cast upward, being opposed in its flight by the resistance of gravity; but the same holds true if the projectile be sent into water, mud, earth, timber, or other resisting material. If, for example, we double the velocity of a cannon-ball, we quadruple its mechanical effect. Hence the importance of augmenting the velocity of a projectile, and hence the philosophy of Sir William Armstrong in using a large charge of powder in his recent striking experiments.

The measure then of mechanical effect is the mass of the body multiplied by the square of its velocity.

Now in firing a ball against a target the projectile, after collision, is often found hot. Mr. Fairbairn informs me that in the experiments at Shoeburyness it is a common thing to see a flash, even in broad daylight, when the ball strikes the target. And if our lead weight be examined after it has fallen from a height it is also found heated. Now here experiment and reasoning lead us to the remarkable law that, like the mechanical effect, the amount of heat generated is proportional to the product of the mass into the square of the velocity. Double your mass, other things being equal, and you double your amount of heat; double your velocity, other things remaining equal, and you quadruple your amount of heat. Here then we have common mechanical motion destroyed and heat produced. When a violin bow is drawn across a string, the sound produced is due to motion imparted to the air, and to produce that motion muscular force has been expended. We may here correctly say, that the mechanical force of the arm is converted into music. In a similar way we say that the arrested motion of our descending weight, or of the cannon-ball, is converted into heat. The mode of motion changes, but motion still continues; the motion of the mass is converted into a motion of the atoms of the mass; and these small motions, communicated to the nerves, produce the sensation we call heat.

We know the amount of heat which a given amount of mechanical force can develope. Our lead ball, for example, in falling to the earth generated a quantity of heat sufficient to raise its own temperature three-fifths of a Fahrenheit degree. It reached the earth with a velocity of 32 feet a second, and forty times this velocity would be small for a rifle bullet; multiplying 0.6 by the square of 40, we find that the amount of heat developed by collision with the target would, if wholly concentrated in the lead, raise its temperature 960 degrees. This would be more than sufficient to fuse the lead. In reality, however, the heat developed is divided between the lead and the body against which it strikes; nevertheless, it would be worth while to pay attention to this point, and to ascertain whether rifle bullets do not, under some circumstances, show signs of fusion. [Footnote: Eight years subsequently this surmise was proved correct. In the Franco-German War signs of fusion were observed in the case of bullets impinging on bones.]

From the motion of sensible masses, by gravity and other means, we now pass to the motion of atoms towards each other by chemical affinity. A collodion balloon filled with a mixture of chlorine and hydrogen being hung in the focus of a parabolic mirror, in the focus of a second mirror 20 feet distant a strong electric light was suddenly generated; the instant the concentrated light fell upon the balloon, the gases within it exploded, hydrochloric acid being the result. Here the atoms virtually fell together, the amount of heat produced showing the enormous force of the collision. The burning of charcoal in oxygen is an old experiment, but it has now a significance beyond what it used to have; we now regard the act of combination on the part of the atoms of oxygen and coal as we regard the clashing of a falling weight against the earth. The heat produced in both cases is referable to a common cause. A diamond, which burns in oxygen as a star of white light, glows and burns in consequence of the falling of the atoms of oxygen against it. And could we measure the velocity of the atoms when they clash, and could we find their number and weights, multiplying the weight of each atom by the square of its velocity, and adding all together, we should get a number representing the exact amount of heat developed by the union of the oxygen and carbon.

Thus far we have regarded the heat developed by the clashing of sensible masses and of atoms. Work is expended in giving motion to these atoms or masses, and heat is developed. But we reverse this process daily, and by the expenditure of heat execute work. We can raise a weight by heat; and in this agent we possess an enormous store of mechanical power. A pound of coal produces by its combination with oxygen an amount of heat which, if mechanically applied, would suffice to raise a weight of 100 lbs. to a height of 20 miles above the earth's surface. Conversely, 100 lbs. falling from a height of 20 miles, and striking against 'the earth, would generate an amount of heat equal to that developed by the combustion of a pound of coal. Wherever work is done by heat, heat disappears. A gun which fires a ball is less heated than one which fires blank cartridge. The quantity of heat communicated to the boiler of a working steam-engine is greater than that which could be obtained from the re-condensation of the steam, after it had done its work; and the amount of work performed is the exact equivalent of the amount of heat lost. Mr. Smyth informed us in his interesting discourse, that we dig annually 84 millions of tons of coal from our pits. The amount of mechanical force represented by this quantity of coal seems perfectly fabulous. The combustion of a single pound of coal, supposing it to take place in a minute, would be equivalent to the work of 300 horses; and if we suppose 108 millions of horses working day and night with unimpaired strength, for a year, their united energies would enable them to perform an amount of work just equivalent to that which the annual produce of our coal-fields would be able to accomplish.

Comparing with ordinary gravity the force with which oxygen and carbon unite together, chemical affinity seems almost infinite. But let us give gravity fair play by permitting it to act throughout its entire range. Place a body at such a distance from the earth that the attraction of our planet is barely sensible, and let it fall to the earth from this distance. It would reach the earth with a final velocity of 36,747 feet a second; and on collision with the earth the body would generate about twice the amount of heat generated by the combustion of an equal weight of coal. We have stated that by falling through a space of 16 feet our lead bullet would be heated three-fifths of a degree; but a body falling from an infinite distance has already used up 1,299,999 parts out of 1,300,000 of the earth's pulling power, when it has arrived within 16 feet of the surface; on this space only 1/1,300,000 of the whole force is exerted.

Let us now turn our thoughts for a moment from the earth to the sun. The researches of Sir John Herschel and M. Pouillet have informed us of the annual expenditure of the sun as regards heat; and by an easy calculation we ascertain the precise amount of the expenditure which falls to the share of our planet. Out of 2300 million parts of light and heat the earth receives one. The whole heat emitted by the sun in a minute would be competent to boil 12,000 millions of cubic miles of ice-cold water. How is this enormous loss made good—whence is the sun's heat derived, and by what means is it maintained? No combustion—no chemical affinity with which we are acquainted, would be competent to produce the temperature of the sun's surface. Besides, were the sun a burning body merely, its light and heat would speedily come to an end. Supposing it to be a solid globe of coal, its combustion would only cover 4600 years of expenditure. In this short time it would burn itself out. What agency then can produce the temperature and maintain the outlay? We have already regarded the case of a body falling from a great distance towards the earth, and found that the heat generated by its collision would be twice that produced by the combustion of an equal weight of coal. How much greater must be the heat developed by a body falling against the sun! The maximum velocity with which a body can strike the earth is about 7 miles in a second; the maximum velocity with which it can strike the sun is 390 miles in a second. And as the heat developed by the collision is proportional to the square of the velocity destroyed, an asteroid falling into the sun with the above velocity would generate about 10,000 times the quantity of heat produced by the combustion of an asteroid of coal of the same weight.

Have we any reason to believe that such bodies exist in space, and that they may be raining down upon the sun? The meteorites flashing through the air are small planetary bodies, drawn by the earth's attraction. They enter our atmosphere with planetary velocity, and by friction against the air they are raised to incandescence and caused to emit light and heat. At certain seasons of the year they shower down upon us in great numbers. In Boston 240,000 of them were observed in nine hours. There is no reason to suppose that the planetary system is limited to 'vast masses of enormous weight;' there is, on the contrary, reason to believe that space is stocked with smaller masses, which obey the same laws as the larger ones. That lenticular envelope which surrounds the sun, and which is known to astronomers as the Zodiacal light, is probably a crowd of meteors; and moving as they do in a resisting medium, they must continually approach the sun. Falling into it, they would produce enormous heat, and this would constitute a source from which the annual loss of heat might be made good. The sun, according to this hypothesis, would continually grow larger; but how much larger? Were our moon to fall into the sun, it would develope an amount of heat sufficient to cover one or two years' loss; and were our earth to fall into the sun a century's loss would be made good. Still, our moon and our earth, if distributed over the surface of the sun, would utterly vanish from perception. Indeed, the quantity of matter competent to produce the required effect would, during the range of history, cause no appreciable augmentation in the sun's magnitude. The augmentation of the sun's attractive force would be more sensible. However this hypothesis may fare as a representant of what is going on in nature, it certainly shows how a sun might be formed and maintained on known thermo-dynamic principles.

Our earth moves in its orbit with a velocity of 68,040 miles an hour. Were this motion stopped, an amount of heat would be developed sufficient to raise the temperature of a globe of lead of the same size as the earth 384,000 degrees of the centigrade thermometer. It has been prophesied that 'the elements shall melt with fervent heat.' The earth's own motion embraces the conditions of fulfilment; stop that motion, and the greater part, if not the whole, of our planet would be reduced to vapour. If the earth fell into the sun, the amount of heat developed by the shock would be equal to that developed by the combustion of a mass of solid coal 6435 times the earth in size.

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