There is one other consideration connected with the permanence of our present terrestrial conditions, which is well worthy of our attention. Standing upon one of, the London bridges, we observe the current of the Thames reversed, and the water poured upward twice a-day. The water thus moved rubs against the river's bed, and heat is the consequence of this friction. The heat thus generated is in part radiated into space and lost, as far as the earth is concerned. What supplies this incessant loss? The earth's rotation. Let us look a little more closely at the matter. Imagine the moon fixed, and the earth turning like a wheel from west to east in its diurnal rotation. Suppose a high mountain on the earth's surface approaching the earth's meridian; that mountain is, as it were, laid hold of by the moon; it forms a kind of handle by which the earth is pulled more quickly round. But when the meridian is passed the pull of the moon on the mountain would be in the opposite direction, it would tend to diminish the velocity of rotation as much as it previously augmented it; thus the action of all fixed bodies on the earth's surface is neutralised. But suppose the mountain to lie always to the east of the moon's meridian, the pull then would be always exerted against the earth's rotation, the velocity of which would be diminished in a degree corresponding to the strength of the pull. The tidal wave occupies this position—it lies always to the east of the moon's meridian. The waters of the ocean are in part dragged as a brake along the surface of the earth; and as a brake they must diminish the velocity of the earth's rotation. [Footnote: Kant surmised an action of this kind.] Supposing then that we turn a mill by the action of the tide, and produce heat by the friction of the millstones; that heat has an origin totally different from the heat produced by another mill which is turned by a mountain stream. The former is produced at the expense of the earth's rotation, the latter at the expense of the sun's radiation.
The sun, by the act of vaporisation, lifts mechanically all the moisture of our air, which when it condenses falls in the form of rain, and when it freezes falls as snow. In this solid form it is piled upon the Alpine heights, and furnishes materials for glaciers. But the sun again interposes, liberates the solidified liquid, and permits it to roll by gravity to the sea. The mechanical force of every river in the world as it rolls towards the ocean, is drawn from the heat of the sun. No streamlet glides to a lower level without having been first lifted to the elevation from which it springs by the power of the sun. The energy of winds is also due entirely to the same power.
But there is still another work which the sun performs, and its connection with which is not so obvious. Trees and vegetables grow upon the earth, and when burned they give rise to heat, and hence to mechanical energy. Whence is this power derived? You see this oxide of iron, produced by the falling together of the atoms of iron and oxygen; you cannot see this transparent carbonic acid gas, formed by the falling together of carbon and oxygen. The atoms thus in close union resemble our lead weight while resting on the earth; but we can wind up the weight and prepare it for another fall, and so these atoms can be wound up and thus enabled to repeat the process of combination. In the building of plants carbonic acid is the material from which the carbon of the plant is derived; and the solar beam is the agent which tears the atoms asunder, setting the oxygen free, and allowing the carbon to aggregate in woody fibre. Let the solar rays fall upon a surface of sand; the sand is heated, and finally radiates away as much heat as it receives; let the same beams fall upon a forest, the quantity of heat given back is less than the forest receives; for the energy of a portion of the sunbeams is invested in building the trees. Without the sun the reduction of the carbonic acid cannot be effected, and an amount of sunlight is consumed exactly equivalent to the molecular work done. Thus trees are formed; thus the cotton on which Mr. Bazley discoursed last Friday is produced. I ignite this cotton, and it flames; the oxygen again unites with the carbon; but an amount of heat equal to that produced by its combustion was sacrificed by the sun to form that bit of cotton.
We cannot, however, stop at vegetable life, for it is the source, mediate or immediate, of all animal life. The sun severs the carbon from its oxygen and builds the vegetable; the animal consumes the vegetable thus formed, a reunion of the severed elements takes place, producing animal heat. The process of building a vegetable is one of winding up; the process of building an animal is one of running down. The warmth of our bodies, and every mechanical energy which we exert, trace their lineage directly to the sun.
The fight of a pair of pugilists, the motion of an army, or the lifting of his own body by an Alpine climber up a mountain slope, are all cases of mechanical energy drawn from the sun. A man weighing 150 pounds has 64 pounds of muscle; but these, when dried, reduce themselves to 15 pounds. Doing an ordinary day's work, for eighty days, this mass of muscle would be wholly oxidised. Special organs which do more work would be more quickly consumed: the heart, for example, if entirely unsustained, would be oxidised in about a week. Take the amount of heat due to the direct oxidation of a given weight of food; less heat is developed by the oxidation of the same amount of food in the working animal frame, and the missing quantity is the equivalent of the mechanical work accomplished by the muscles.
I might extend these considerations; the work, indeed, is done to my hand—but I am warned that you have been already kept too long. To whom then are we indebted for the most striking generalisations of this evening's discourse? They are the work of a man of whom you have scarcely ever heard—the published labours of a German doctor, named Mayer. Without external stimulus, and pursuing his profession as town physician in Heilbronn, this man was the first to raise the conception of the interaction of heat and other natural forces to clearness in his own mind. And yet he is scarcely ever heard of, and even to scientific men his merits are but partially known. Led by his own beautiful researches, and quite independent of Mayer, Mr. Joule published in 1843 his first paper on the 'Mechanical Value of Heat;' but in 1842 Mayer had actually calculated the mechanical equivalent of heat from data which only a man of the rarest penetration could turn to account.
In 1845 he published his memoir on 'Organic Motion,' and applied the mechanical theory of heat in the most fearless and precise manner to vital processes. He also embraced the other natural agents in his chain of conservation. In 1853 Mr. Waterston proposed, independently, the meteoric theory of the sun's heat, and in 1854 Professor William Thomson applied his admirable mathematical powers to the development of the theory; but six years previously the subject had been handled in a masterly manner by Mayer, and all that I have said about it has been derived from him. When we consider the circumstances of Mayer's life, and the period at which he wrote, we cannot fail to be struck with astonishment at what he has accomplished. Here was a man of genius working in silence, animated solely by a love of his subject, and arriving at the most important results in advance of those whose lives were entirely devoted to Natural Philosophy. It was the accident of bleeding a feverish patient at Java in 1840 that led Mayer to speculate on these subjects. He noticed that the venous blood in the tropics was of a brighter red than in colder latitudes, and his reasoning on this fact led him into the laboratory of natural forces, where he has worked with such signal ability and success. Well, you will desire to know what has become of this man. His mind, it is alleged, gave way; it is said he became insane, and he was certainly sent to a lunatic asylum. In a biographical dictionary of his country it is stated that he died there, but this is incorrect. He recovered; and, I believe, is at this moment a cultivator of vineyards in Heilbronn.
June 20, 1862.
While preparing for publication my last course of lectures on Heat, I wished to make myself acquainted with all that Dr. Mayer had done in connection with this subject. I accordingly wrote to two gentlemen who above all others seemed likely to give me the information which I needed. [Footnote: Helmholtz and Clausius.] Both of them are Germans, and both particularly distinguished in connection with the Dynamical Theory of Heat. Each of them kindly furnished me with the list of Mayer's publications, and one of them [Clausius] was so friendly as to order them from a bookseller, and to send them to me. This friend, in his reply to my first letter regarding Mayer, stated his belief that I should not find anything very important in Mayer's writings; but before forwarding the memoirs to me he read them himself. His letter accompanying them contains the following words: 'I must here retract the statement in my last letter, that you would not find much matter of importance in Mayer's writings: I am astonished at the multitude of beautiful and correct thoughts which they contain;' and he goes on to point out various important subjects, in the treatment of which Mayer had anticipated other eminent writers. My other friend, in whose own publications the name of Mayer repeatedly occurs, and whose papers containing these references were translated some years ago by myself, was, on the 10th of last month, unacquainted with the thoughtful and beautiful essay of Mayer's, entitled 'Beitraege zur Dynamik des Himmels,' and in 1854, when Professor William Thomson developed in so striking a manner the meteoric theory of the sun's heat, he was certainly not aware of the existence of that essay, though from a recent article in 'Macmillan's Magazine' I infer that he is now aware of it. Mayer's physiological writings have been referred to by physiologists—by Dr. Carpenter, for example—in terms of honouring recognition. We have hitherto, indeed, obtained fragmentary glimpses of the man, partly from physicists and partly from physiologists; but his total merit has never yet been recognised as it assuredly would have been had he chosen a happier mode of publication. I do not think a greater disservice could be done to a man of science, than to overstate his claims: such overstatement is sure to recoil to the disadvantage of him in whose interest it is made. But when Mayer's opportunities, achievements, and fate are taken into account, I do not think that I shall be deeply blamed for attempting to place him in that honourable position, which I believe to be his due.
Here, however, are the titles of Mayer's papers, the perusal of which will correct any error of judgment into which I may have fallen regarding their author. 'Bemerkungen ueber die Kraefte der unbelebten Natur,' Liebig's 'Annalen,' 1842, Vol. 42, p. 231; 'Die Organische Bewegung in ihrem Zusammenhange mit dem Stoffwechsel,' Heilbronn, 1845; 'Beitraege zur Dynamik des Himmels,' Heilbronn, 1848; 'Bemerkungen ueber das Mechanische Equivalent der Waerme,' Heilbronn, 1851.
IN MEMORIAM.—Dr. Julius Robert Mayer died at Heilbronn on March 20, 1878, aged 63 years. It gives me pleasure to reflect that the great positionwhich he will for ever occupy in the annals of science was first virtually assigned to him in the foregoing discourse. He was subsequently hosen by acclamation a member of the French Academy of Sciences; and he received from the Royal Society the Copley medal-its Highest reward. [Footnote: See 'The Copley Medalist for 1871,' p.479.]
At the meeting of the British Association at Glasgow in 1876—that is to say, more than fourteen years after its delivery and publication—the foregoing lecture was made the cloak for an unseemly personal attack by Professor Tait. The anger which found this uncourteous vent dates from 1863, when it fell to my lot to maintain, in opposition to him and a more eminent colleague, the position which in 1862 I had assigned to Dr. Mayer. [Footnote: See 'Philosophical Magazine' for this and the succeeding years.] In those days Professor Tait denied to Mayer all originality, and he has since, I regret to say, never missed an opportunity, however small, of carping at Mayer's claims. The action of the Academy of Sciences and of the Royal Society summarily disposes of this detraction, to which its object, during his lifetime, never vouchsafed either remonstrance or reply.
Some time ago Professor Tait published a volume of lectures entitled 'Recent Advances in Physical Science,' which I have reason to know has evoked an amount of censure far beyond that hitherto publicly expressed. Many of the best heads on the continent of Europe agree in their rejection and condemnation of the historic portions of this book. In March last it was subjected to a brief but pungent critique by Du Bois-Reymond, the celebrated Perpetual Secretary of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Du Bois-Reymond's address was on 'National Feeling,' and his critique is thus wound up: 'The author of the "Lectures" is not, perhaps, sufficiently well acquainted with the history on which he professes to throw light, and on the later phases of which he passes so unreserved (schroff) a judgment. He thus exposes himself to the suspicion—which, unhappily, is not weakened by his other writings—that the fiery Celtic blood of his country occasionally runs away with him, converting him for the time into a scientific Chauvin. Scientific Chauvinism,' adds the learned secretary, 'from which German investigators have hitherto kept free, is more reprehensible (gehaessig) than political Chauvinism, inasmuch as self-control (sittliche Haltung) is more to be expected from men of science, than from the politically excited mass.' [Footnote: Festrede, delivered before the Academy of Sciences of Berlin, in celebration of the birthday of the Emperor and King, March 28, 1878.]
In the case before this 'expectation' would, I fear, be doomed to disappointment. But Du Bois-Reymond and his countrymen must not accept the writings of Professor Tait as representative of the thought of England. Surely no nation in the world has more effectually shaken itself free from scientific Chauvinism. From the day that Davy, on presenting the Copley medal to Arago, scornfully brushed aside that spurious patriotism which would run national boundaries through the free domain of science, chivalry towards foreigners has been a guiding principle with the Royal Society.
On the more private amenities indulged in by Professor Tait, I do not consider it necessary to say a word.
XVII. CONTRIBUTIONS TO MOLECULAR PHYSICS.
[Footnote: A discourse delivered at the Royal Institution, March 18, 1864—supplementing, though of prior date, the Rede Lecture on Radiation.]
HAVING on previous occasions dwelt upon the enormous differences which exist among gaseous bodies both as regards their power of absorbing and emitting radiant heat, I have now to consider the effect of a change of aggregation. When a gas is condensed to a liquid, or a liquid congealed to a solid, the molecules coalesce, and grapple with each other by forces which are insensible as long as the gaseous state is maintained. But, even in the solid and liquid conditions, the luminiferous aether still surrounds the molecules: hence, if the acts of radiation and absorption depend on them individually, regardless of their state of aggregation, the change from the gaseous to the liquid state ought not materially to affect the radiant and absorbent power. If, on the contrary, the mutual entanglement of the molecular by the force of cohesion be of paramount influence, then we may expect that liquids will exhibit a deportment towards radiant heat altogether different from that of the vapours from which they are derived.
The first part of an enquiry conducted in 1863-64 was devoted to an exhaustive examination of this question. Twelve different liquids were employed, and five different layers of each, varying in thickness from 0.02 of an inch to 0.27 of an inch. The liquids were enclosed, not in glass vessels, which would have materially modified the incident heat, but between plates of transparent rock-salt, which only slightly affected the radiation. The source of heat throughout these comparative experiments consisted of a platinum wire, raised to incandescence by an electric current of unvarying strength. The quantities of radiant heat absorbed and transmitted by each of the liquids at the respective thicknesses were first determined. The vapours of these liquids were subsequently examined, the quantities of vapour employed being rendered proportional to the quantities of liquid previously traversed by the radiant heat. The result was that, for heat from the same source, the order of absorption of liquids and of their vapours proved absolutely the same. There is no known exception to this law; so that, to determine the position of a vapour as an absorber or a radiator, it is only necessary to determine the position of its liquid.
This result proves that the state of aggregation, as far at all events as the liquid stage is concerned, is of altogether subordinate moment—a conclusion which will probably prove to be of cardinal importance in molecular physics. On one important and contested point it has a special bearing. If the position of a liquid as an absorber and radiator determine that of its vapour, the position of water fixes that of aqueous vapour. Water has been compared with other liquids in a multitude of experiments, and it has been found, both as a radiant and as an absorbent, to transcend them all. Thus, for example, a layer of bisulphide of carbon 0.02 of an inch in thickness absorbs 6 per cent, and allows 94 per cent of the radiation from the red-hot platinum spiral to pass through it; benzol absorbs 43 and transmits 57 per cent. of the same radiation; alcohol absorbs 67 and transmits 33 per cent, and alcohol, as an absorber of radiant heat, stands at the head of all liquids except one. The exception is water. A layer of this substance, of the thickness above given, absorbs 81 per cent, and permits only 19 per cent. of the radiation to pass through it. Had no single experiment ever been made upon the vapour of water, its vigorous action upon radiant heat might be inferred from the deportment of the liquid.
The relation of absorption and radiation to the chemical constitution of the radiating and absorbing substances was next briefly considered. For the first six substances in the list of liquids examined, the radiant and absorbent powers augment as the number of atoms in the compound molecule augments. Thus, bisulphide of carbon has 3 atoms, chloroform 5, iodide of ethyl 8, benzol 12, and amylene 15 atoms in their respective molecules. The order of their power as radiants and absorbents is that here indicated, bisulphide of carbon being the feeblest, and amylene the strongest of the six. Alcohol, however, excels benzol as an absorber, though it has but 9 atoms in its molecule; but, on the other hand, its molecule is rendered more complex by the introduction of a new element. Benzol contains carbon and hydrogen, while alcohol contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Thus, not only does atomic multitude come into play in absorption and radiation—atomic complexity must also be taken into account. I would recommend to the particular attention of chemists the molecule of water; the deportment of this substance towards radiant heat being perfectly anomalous, if the chemical formula at present ascribed to it be correct.
Sir William Herschel made the important discovery that, beyond the limits of the red end of the solar spectrum, rays of high heating power exist which are incompetent to excite vision. The discovery is capable of extension. Dissolving iodine in the bisulphide of carbon, a solution is obtained which entirely intercepts the light of the most brilliant flames, while to the ultra-red rays of such flames the same iodine is found to be perfectly diathermic. The transparent bisulphide, which is highly pervious to invisible heat, exercises on it the same absorption as the perfectly opaque solution. A hollow prism filled with the opaque liquid being placed in the path of the beam from an electric lamp, the light-spectrum is completely intercepted, but the heat spectrum may be received upon a screen and there examined. Falling upon a thermo-electric pile, its invisible presence is shown by the prompt deflection of even a coarse galvanometer.
What, then, is the physical meaning of opacity and transparency as regards light and radiant heat? The visible rays of the spectrum differ from the invisible ones simply in period. The sensation of light is excited by waves of aether shorter and more quickly recurrent than the non-visual waves which fall beyond 'the extreme red. But why should iodine stop the former and allow the latter to pass? The answer to this question no doubt is, that the intercepted waves are those whose periods of recurrence coincide with the periods of oscillation possible to the atoms of the dissolved iodine. The elastic forces which keep these atoms apart compel them to vibrate in definite periods, and, when these periods synchronise with those of the aethereal waves, the latter are absorbed. Briefly defined, then, transparency in liquids, as well as in gases, is synonymous with discord, while opacity is synonymous with accord, between the periods of the waves of aether and those of the molecules on which they impinge.
According to this view transparent and colourless substances owe their transparency to the dissonance existing between the oscillating periods of their atoms and those of the waves of the whole visible spectrum. From the prevalence of transparency in compound bodies, the general discord of the vibrating periods of their atoms with the light-giving waves of the spectrum, may be inferred; while their synchronism with the ultra-red periods is to be inferred from their opacity to the ultra-red rays. Water illustrates this in a most striking manner. It is highly transparent to the luminous rays, which proves that its atoms do not readily oscillate in the periods which excite vision. It is highly opaque to the ultra-red undulations, which proves the synchronism of its vibrating periods with those of the longer waves.
If, then, to the radiation from any source water shows itself eminently or perfectly opaque, we may infer that the atoms whence the radiation emanates oscillate in ultra-red periods. Let us apply this test to the radiation from a flame of hydrogen. This flame consists mainly of incandescent aqueous vapour, the temperature of which, as calculated by Bunsen, is 3259 deg.C, so that, if the penetrative power of radiant heat, as generally supposed, augment with the temperature of its source, we may expect the radiation from this flame to be copiously transmitted by water. While, however, a layer of the bisulphide of carbon 0.07 of an inch in thickness transmits 72 per cent. of the incident radiation, and while every other liquid examined transmits more or less of the heat, a layer of water of the above thickness is entirely opaque to the radiation from the hydrogen flame. Thus we establish accord between the periods of the atoms of cold water and those of aqueous vapour at a temperature of 3259 deg.C. But the periods of water have already been proved to be ultra red—hence those of the hydrogen flame must be sensibly ultra-red also. The absorption by dry air of the heat emitted by a platinum spiral raised to incandescence by electricity is insensible, while that by the ordinary undried air is 6 per cent. Substituting for the platinum spiral a hydrogen flame, the absorption by dry air still remains insensible, while that of the undried air rises to 20 per cent. of the entire radiation. The temperature of the hydrogen flame is, as stated, 3259 deg.C; that of the aqueous vapour of the air 20 deg.C. Suppose, then, the temperature of aqueous vapour to rise from 20 deg.C. to 3259 deg.C, we must conclude that the augmentation of temperature is applied to an increase of amplitude or width of swing, and not to the introduction of quicker periods into the radiation.
The part played by aqueous vapour in the economy of nature is far more wonderful than has been hitherto supposed. To nourish the vegetation of the earth the actinic and luminous rays of the sun must penetrate our atmosphere; and to such rays aqueous vapour is eminently transparent. The violet and the ultra-violet rays pass through it with freedom. To protect vegetation from destructive chills the terrestrial rays must be checked in their transit towards stellar space; and this is accomplished by the aqueous vapour diffused through the air. This substance is the great moderator of the earth's temperature, bringing its extremes into proximity, and obviating contrasts between day and night which would render life insupportable. But we can advance beyond this general statement, now that we know the radiation from aqueous vapour is intercepted, in a special degree, by water, and, reciprocally, the radiation from water by aqueous vapour; for it follows from this that the very act of nocturnal refrigeration which produces the condensation of aqueous vapour at the surface of the earth—giving, as it were, a varnish of water to that surface—imparts to terrestrial radiation that particular character which disqualifies it from passing through the earth's atmosphere and losing itself in space.
And here we come to a question in molecular physics which at the present moment occupies attention. By allowing the violet and ultra-violet rays of the spectrum to fall upon sulphate of quinine and other substances Professor Stokes has changed the periods of those rays. Attempts have been made to produce a similar result at the other end of the spectrum—to convert the ultra-red periods into periods competent to excite vision—but hitherto without success. Such a change of period, I agree with Dr. Miller in believing, occurs when the limelight is produced by an oxy-hydrogen flame. In this common experiment there is an actual breaking up of long periods into short ones—a true rendering of unvisual periods visual. The change of refrangibility here effected differs from that of Professor Stokes; firstly, by its being in the opposite direction—that is, from a lower refrangibility to a higher; and, secondly, in the circumstance that the lime is heated by the collision of the molecules of aqueous vapour, before their heat has assumed the radiant form. But it cannot be doubted that the same effect would be produced by radiant heat of the same periods, provided the motion of the aether could be rendered sufficiently intense. [Footnote: This was soon afterwards accomplished. See the section on 'Transmutation of Rays'.] The effect in principle is the same, whether we consider the lime to be struck by a particle of aqueous vapour oscillating at a certain rate, or by a particle of aether oscillating at the same rate.
By plunging a platinum wire into a hydrogen flame we cause it to glow, and thus introduce shorter periods into the radiation. These, as already stated, are in discord with the atomic vibrations of water; hence we may infer that the transmission through water will be rendered more copious by the introduction of the wire into the flame. Experiment proves this conclusion to be true. Water, from being opaque, opens a passage to 6 per cent. of the radiation from the spiral. A thin plate of colourless glass, moreover, transmits 68 per cent. of the radiation from the hydrogen flame; but when the flame and spiral are employed, 78 per cent. of the heat is transmitted.
For an alcohol flame Knoblauch and Melloni found glass to be less transparent than for the same flame with a platinum spiral immersed in it; but Melloni afterwards showed that the result was not general—that black glass and black mica were decidedly more diathermic to the radiation from the pure alcohol flame. Melloni did not explain this, but the reason is now obvious. The mica and glass owe their blackness to the carbon diffused through them. This carbon, as first proved by Melloni, is in some measure transparent to the ultra-red rays, and I have myself succeeded in transmitting between 40 and 50 per cent. of the radiation from a hydrogen flame through a layer of carbon which intercepted the light of an intensely brilliant flame. The products of combustion of alcohol are carbonic acid and aqueous vapour, the heat of which is almost wholly ultra-red. For this radiation, then, the carbon is in a considerable degree transparent, while for the radiation from the platinum spiral, it is in a great measure opaque. The platinum wire, therefore, which augmented the radiation through the pure glass, augmented the absorption of the black glass and mica.
No more striking or instructive illustration of the influence of coincidence could be adduced than that furnished by the radiation from a carbonic oxide flame. Here the product of combustion is carbonic acid; and on the radiation from this flame even the ordinary carbonic acid of the atmosphere exerts a powerful effect. A quantity of the gas, only one-thirtieth of an atmosphere in density, contained in a polished brass tube four feet long, intercepts 50 per cent. of the radiation from the carbonic oxide flame. For the heat emitted by lampblack, olefiant gas is a far more powerful absorber than carbonic acid; in fact, for such heat, with one exception, carbonic acid is the most feeble absorber to be found among the compound gases. Moreover, for the radiation from a hydrogen flame olefiant gas possesses twice the absorbent power of carbonic acid, while for the radiation from the carbonic oxide flame, at a common pressure of one inch of mercury, the absorption by carbonic acid is more than twice that of olefiant gas. Thus we establish the coincidence of period between carbonic acid at a temperature of 20 deg.C. and carbonic acid at a temperature of over 3000 deg.C, the periods of oscillation of both the incandescent and the cold gas belonging to the ultra-red portion of the spectrum.
It will be seen from the foregoing remarks and experiments how impossible it is to determine the effect of temperature pure and simple on the transmission of radiant heat if different sources of heat be employed. Throughout such an examination the same oscillating atoms ought to be retained. This is done by beating a platinum spiral by an electric current, the temperature meanwhile varying between the widest possible limits. Their comparative opacity to the ultra-red rays shows the general accord of the oscillating periods of the vapours referred to at the commencement of this lecture with those of the ultra-red undulations. Hence, by gradually heating a platinum wire from darkness up to whiteness, we ought gradually to augment the discord between it and these vapours, and thus augment the transmission. Experiment entirely confirms this conclusion. Formic nether, for example, absorbs 45 per cent. of the radiation from a platinum spiral heated to barely visible redness; 32 per cent. of the radiation from the same spiral at a red heat; 26 per cent. of the radiation from a white-hot spiral, and only 21 per cent. when the spiral is brought near its point of fusion. Remarkable cases of inversion as to transparency also occur. For barely visible redness formic aether is more opaque than sulphuric; for a bright red heat both are equally transparent; while, for a white heat, and still more for a higher temperature, sulphuric aether is more opaque than formic. This result gives us a clear view of the relationship of the two substances to the luminiferous aether. As we introduce waves of shorter period the sulphuric aether augments most rapidly in opacity; that is to say, its accord with the shorter waves is greater than that of the formic. Hence we may infer that the atoms of formic aether oscillate, on the whole, more slowly than those of sulphuric aether.
When the source of heat is a Leslie's cube coated with lampblack and filled with boiling water, the opacity of formic aether in comparison with sulphuric is very decided. With this source also the positions of chloroform and iodide of methyl are inverted. For a white-hot spiral, the absorption of chloroform vapour being 10 per cent, that of iodide of methyl is 16; with the blackened cube as source, the absorption by chloroform is 22 per cent, while that by the iodide of methyl is only 19. This inversion is not the result of temperature merely; for when a platinum wire, heated to the temperature of boiling water, is employed as a source, the iodide continues to be the most powerful absorber. All the experiments hitherto made go to prove that from heated lampblack an emission takes place which synchronises in an especial manner with chloroform. For the cube at 100' C, coated with lampblack, the absorption by chloroform is more than three times that by bisulphide of carbon; for the radiation from the most luminous portion of a gas-flame the absorption by chloroform is also considerably in excess of that by bisulphide of carbon; while, for the flame of a Bunsen's burner, from which the incandescent carbon particles are removed by the free admixture of air, the absorption by bisulphide of carbon is nearly twice that by chloroform. The removal of the carbon particles more than doubles the relative transparency of the chloroform. Testing, moreover, the radiation from various parts of the same flame, it was found that for the blue base of the flame the bisulphide of carbon was most opaque, while for all other parts of the flame the chloroform was most opaque. For the radiation from a very small gas flame, consisting of a blue base and a small white tip, the bisulphide was also most opaque, and its opacity very decidedly exceeded that of the chloroform when the source of heat was the flame of bisulphide of carbon. Comparing the radiation from a Leslie's cube coated with isinglass with that from a similar cube coated with lampblack, at the common temperature of 100 deg.C, it was found that, out of eleven vapours, all but one absorbed the radiation from the isinglass most powerfully; the single exception was chloroform.
It is worthy of remark that whenever, through a change of source, the position of a vapour as an absorber of radiant heat was altered, the position of the liquid from which the vapour was derived underwent a similar change.
It is still a point of difference between eminent investigators whether radiant heat, up to a temperature of 100 deg.C, is monochromatic or not. Some affirm this; some deny it. A long series of experiments enables me to state that probably no two substances at a temperature of 100 deg.C. emit heat of the same quality. The heat emitted by isinglass, for example, is different from that emitted by lampblack, and the heat emitted by cloth, or paper, differs from both. It is also a subject of discussion whether rock-salt is equally diathermic to all kinds of calorific rays; the differences affirmed to exist by some investigators being ascribed by others to differences of incidence from the various sources employed. MM. de la Provostaye and Desains maintain the former view, Melloni and M. Knoblauch maintain the latter. I tested this point without changing anything but the temperature of the source; its size, distance, and surroundings remaining the same. The experiments proved rock-salt to be coloured thermally. It is more opaque, for example, to the radiation from a barely visible spiral than to that from a white-hot one.
In regard to the relation of radiation to conduction, if we define radiation, internal as well as external, as the communication of motion from the vibrating atoms to the aether, we may, I think, by fair theoretic reasoning, reach the conclusion that the best radiators ought to prove the worst conductors. A broad consideration of the subject shows at once the general harmony of this conclusion with observed facts. Organic substances are all excellent radiators; they are also extremely bad conductors. The moment we pass from the metals to their compounds we pass from good conductors to bad ones, and from bad radiators to good ones. Water, among liquids, is probably the worst conductor; it is the best radiator. Silver, among solids, is the best conductor; it is the worst radiator. The excellent researches of MM. de la Provostaye and Desains furnish a striking illustration of what I am inclined to regard as a natural law—that those atoms which transfer the greatest amount of motion to the aether, or, in other words, radiate most powerfully, are the least competent to communicate motion to each other, or, in other words, to propagate by conduction readily.
XVIII. LIFE, AND LETTERS OF FARADAY.
UNDERTAKEN and executed in a reverent and loving spirit, the work of Dr. Bence Jones makes Faraday the virtual writer of his own life. Everybody now knows the story of the philosopher's birth; that his father was a smith; that he was born at Newington Butts in 1791; that he ran along the London pavements, a bright-eyed errand boy, with a load of brown curls upon his head and a packet of newspapers under his arm; that the lad's master was a bookseller and bookbinder—a kindly man, who became attached to the little fellow, and in due time made him his apprentice without fee; that during his apprenticeship he found his appetite for knowledge provoked and strengthened by the books he stitched and covered. Thus he grew in wisdom and stature to his year of legal manhood, when he appears in the volumes before us as a writer of letters, which reveal his occupation, acquirements, and tone of mind. His correspondent was Mr. Abbott, a member of the Society of Friends, who, with a forecast of his correspondent's greatness, preserved his letters and produced them at the proper time.
In later years Faraday always carried in his pocket a blank card, on which he jotted down in pencil his thoughts and memoranda. He made his notes in the laboratory, in the theatre, and in the streets. This distrust of his memory reveals itself in his first letter to Abbot. To a proposition that no new enquiry should be started between them before the old one had been exhaustively discussed, Faraday objects. 'Your notion,' he says, 'I can hardly allow, for the following reason: ideas and thoughts spring up in my mind which are irrevocably lost for want of noting at the time.' Gentle as he seemed, he wished to have his own way, and he had it throughout his life. Differences of opinion sometimes arose between the two friends, and then they resolutely faced each other. 'I accept your offer to fight it out with joy, and shall in the battle of experience cause not pain, but, I hope, pleasure.' Faraday notes his own impetuosity, and incessantly checks it. There is at times something almost mechanical in his self-restraint. In another nature it would have hardened into mere 'correctness' of conduct; but his overflowing affections prevented this in his case. The habit of self control became a second nature to him at last, and lent serenity to his later years.
In October 1812 he was engaged by a Mr. De la Roche as a journeyman bookbinder; but the situation did not suit him. His master appears to have been an austere and passionate man, and Faraday was to the last degree sensitive. All his life he continued so. He suffered at times from dejection; and a certain grimness, too, pervaded his moods. 'At present,' he writes to Abbott, 'I am as serious as you can be, and would not scruple to speak a truth to any human being, whatever repugnance it might give rise to. Being in this state of mind, I should have refrained from writing to you, did I not conceive from the general tenor of your letters that your mind is, at proper times, occupied upon serious subjects to the exclusion of those that are frivolous.' Plainly he had fallen into that stern Puritan mood, which not only crucifies the affections and lusts of him who harbours it, but is often a cause of disturbed digestion to his friends.
About three months after his engagement with De la Roche, Faraday quitted him and bookbinding together. He had heard Davy, copied his lectures, and written to him, entreating to be released from Trade, which he hated, and enabled to pursue Science. Davy recognised the merit of his correspondent, kept his eye upon him, and, when occasion offered, drove to his door and sent in a letter, offering him the post of assistant in the laboratory of the Royal Institution. He was engaged March 1, 1813, and on the 8th we find him extracting the sugar from beet-root. He joined the City Philosophical Society which had been founded by Mr. Tatum in 1808. 'The discipline was very sturdy, the remarks very plain, and the results most valuable.' Faraday derived great profit from this little association. In the laboratory he had a discipline sturdier still. Both Davy and himself were at this time frequently cut and bruised by explosions of chloride of nitrogen. One explosion was so rapid 'as to blow my hand open, tear away a part of one nail, and make my fingers so sore that I cannot use them easily.' In another experiment 'the tube and receiver were blown to pieces, I got a cut on the head, and Sir Humphry a bruise on his hand.' And again speaking of the same substance, he says, 'when put in the pump and exhausted, it stood for a moment, and then exploded with a fearful noise. Both Sir H. and I had masks on, but I escaped this time the best. Sir H. had his face cut in two places about the chin, and a violent blow on the forehead struck through a considerable thickness of silk and leather.' It was this same substance that blew out the eye of Dulong.
Over and over again, even at this early date, we can discern the quality which, compounded with his rare intellectual power, made Faraday a great experimental philosopher. This was his desire to see facts, and not to rest contented with the descriptions of them. He frequently pits the eye against the ear, and affirms the enormous superiority of the organ of vision. Late in life I have heard him say that he could never fully understand an experiment until he had seen it. But he did not confine himself to experiment. He aspired to be a teacher, and reflected and wrote upon the method of scientific exposition. 'A lecturer,' he observes, 'should appear easy and collected, undaunted and unconcerned:' still 'his whole behaviour should evince respect for his audience.' These recommendations were afterwards in great part embodied by himself. I doubt his 'unconcern,' but his fearlessness was often manifested. It used to rise within him as a wave, which carried both him and his audience along with it. On rare occasions also, when he felt himself and his subject hopelessly unintelligible, he suddenly evoked a certain recklessness of thought, and, without halting to extricate his bewildered followers, he would dash alone through the jungle into which he had unwittingly led them; thus saving them from ennui by the exhibition of a vigour which, for the time being, they could neither share nor comprehend.
In October 1813 he quitted England with Sir Humphry and Lady Davy. During his absence he kept a journal, from which copious and interesting extracts have been made by Dr. Bence Jones. Davy was considerate, preferring at times to be his own servant rather than impose on Faraday duties which he disliked. But Lady Davy was the reverse. She treated him as an underling; he chafed under the treatment, and was often on the point of returning home. They halted at Geneva. De la Rive, the elder, had known Davy in 1799, and, by his writings in the 'Bibliotheque Britannique,' had been the first to make the English chemist's labours known abroad. He welcomed Davy to his country residence in 1814. Both were sportsmen, and they often went out shooting together. On these occasions Faraday charged Davy's gun while De la Rive charged his own. Once the Genevese philosopher found himself by the side of Faraday, and in his frank and genial way entered into conversation with the young man. It was evident that a person possessing such a charm of manner and such high intelligence could be no mere servant. On enquiry De la Rive was somewhat shocked to find that the soi-disant domestique was really preparateur in the laboratory of the Royal Institution; and he immediately proposed that Faraday thenceforth should join the masters instead of the servants at their meals. To this Davy, probably out of weak deference to his wife, objected; but an arrangement was come to that Faraday thenceforward should have his food in his own room. Rumour states that a dinner in honour of Faraday was given by De la Rive. This is a delusion; there was no such banquet; but Faraday never forgot the kindness of the friend who saw his merit when he was a mere garcon de laboratoire. [Footnote: While confined last autumn at Geneva by the effects of a fall in the Alps, my friends, with a kindness I can never forget, did all that friendship could suggest to render my captivity pleasant to me. M. de la Rive then wrote out for me the full account, of which the foregoing is a condensed abstract. It was at the desire of Dr. Bence Jones that I asked him to do so. The rumour of a banquet at Geneva illustrates the tendency to substitute for the youth of 1814 the Faraday of later years.]
He returned in 1815 to the Royal Institution. Here he helped Davy for years; he worked also for himself, and lectured frequently at the City Philosophical Society. He took lessons in elocution, happily without damage to his natural force, earnestness, and grace of delivery. He was never pledged to theory, and he changed in opinion as knowledge advanced. With him life was growth. In those early lectures we hear him say, 'In knowledge, that man only is to be contemned and despised who is not in a state of transition.' And again: 'Nothing is more difficult and requires more caution than philosophical deduction, nor is there anything more adverse to its accuracy than fixity of opinion.' Not that he was wafted about by every wind of doctrine; but that he united flexibility with his strength. In striking contrast with this intellectual expansiveness was his fixity in religion, but this is a subject which cannot be discussed here.
Of all the letters published in these volumes none possess a greater charm than those of Faraday to his wife. Here, as Dr. Bence Jones truly remarks, 'he laid open all his mind and the whole of his character, and what can be made known can scarcely fail to charm every one by its loveliness, its truthfulness, and its earnestness.' Abbott and he sometimes swerved into wordplay about love; but up to 1820, or thereabouts, the passion was potential merely. Faraday's journal indeed contains entries which show that he took pleasure in the assertion of his contempt for love; but these very entries became links in his destiny. It was through them that he became acquainted with one who inspired him with a feeling which only ended with his life. His biographer has given us the means of tracing the varying moods which preceded his acceptance. They reveal more than the common alternations of light and gloom; at one moment he wishes that his flesh might melt and that he might become nothing; at another he is intoxicated with hope. The impetuosity of his character was then unchastened by the discipline to which it was subjected in after years. The very strength of his passion proved for a time a bar to its advance, suggesting, as it did, to the conscientious mind of Miss Barnard, doubts of her capability to return it with adequate force. But they met again and again, and at each successive meeting he found his heaven clearer, until at length he was able to say, 'Not a moment's alloy of this evening's happiness occurred. Everything was delightful to the last moment of my stay with my companion, because she was so.' The turbulence of doubt subsided, and a calm and elevating confidence took its place. 'What can I call myself,' he writes to her in a subsequent letter, 'to convey most perfectly my affection and love for you? Can I or can truth say more than that for this world I am yours? Assuredly he made his profession good, and no fairer light falls upon his character than that which reveals his relations to his wife. Never, I believe, existed a manlier, purer, steadier love. Like a burning diamond, it continued to shed, for six-and-forty years, its white and smokeless glow.
Faraday was married on June 12, 1821; and up to this date Davy appears throughout as his friend. Soon afterwards, however, disunion occurred between them, which, while it lasted, must have given Faraday intense pain. It is impossible to doubt the honesty of conviction with which this subject has been treated by Dr. Bence Jones, and there may be facts known to him, but not appearing in these volumes, which justify his opinion that Davy in those days had become jealous of Faraday. This, which is the prevalent belief, is also reproduced in an excellent article in the March number of 'Framer's Magazine.' But the best analysis I can make of the data fails to present Davy in this light to me. The facts, as I regard them, are briefly these.
In 1820, Oersted of Copenhagen made the celebrated discovery which connects electricity with magnetism, and immediately afterwards the acute mind of Wollaston perceived that a wire carrying a current ought to rotate round its own axis under the influence of a magnetic pole. In 1821 'he tried, but failed, to realise this result in the laboratory of the Royal Institution. Faraday was not present at the moment, but he came in immediately afterwards and heard the conversation of Wollaston and Davy about the experiment. He had also heard a rumour of a wager that Dr. Wollaston would eventually succeed.
This was in April. In the autumn of the same year Faraday wrote a history of electro-magnetism, and repeated for himself the experiments which he described. It was while thus instructing himself that he succeeded in causing a wire, carrying an electric current, to rotate round a magnetic pole. This was not the result sought by Wollaston, but it was closely related to that result.
The strong tendency of Faraday's mind to look upon the reciprocal actions of natural forces gave birth to his greatest discoveries; and we, who know this, should be justified in concluding that, even had Wollaston not preceded him, the result would have been the same. But in judging Davy we ought to transport ourselves to his time, and carefully exclude from our thoughts and feelings that noble subsequent life, which would render simply impossible the ascription to Faraday of anything unfair. It would be unjust to Davy to put our knowledge in the place of his, or to credit him with data which he could not have possessed. Rumour and fact had connected the name of Wollaston with these supposed interactions between magnets and currents. When, therefore, Faraday in October published his successful experiment, without any allusion to Wollaston, general, though really ungrounded, criticism followed. I say ungrounded because, firstly, Faraday's experiment was not that of Wollaston, and secondly, Faraday, before he published it, had actually called upon Wollaston, and not finding him at home, did not feel himself authorised to mention his name.
In December, Faraday published a second paper on the same subject, from which, through a misapprehension, the name of Wollaston was also omitted. Warburton and others thereupon affirmed that Wollaston's ideas had been appropriated without acknowledgment, and it is plain that Wollaston himself, though cautious in his utterance, was also hurt. Censure grew till it became intolerable. 'I hear,' writes Faraday to his friend Stodart, 'every day more and more of these sounds, which, though only whispers to me, are, I suspect, spoken aloud among scientific men.' He might have written explanations and defences, but he went straighter to the point. He wished to see the principals face to face—to plead his cause before them personally. There was a certain vehemence in his desire to do this. He saw Wollaston, he saw Davy, he saw Warburton; and I am inclined to think that it was the irresistible candour and truth of character which these viva voce defences revealed, as much as the defences themselves, that disarmed resentment at the time.
As regards Davy, another cause of dissension arose in 1823. In the spring of that year Faraday analysed the hydrate of chlorine, a substance once believed to be the element chlorine, but proved by Davy to be a compound of that element and water. The analysis was looked over by Davy, who then and there suggested to Faraday to heat the hydrate in a closed glass tube. This was done, the substance was decomposed, and one of the products of decomposition was proved by Faraday to be chlorine liquefied by its own pressure. On the day of its discovery he communicated this result to Dr. Paris. Davy, on being informed of it, instantly liquefied another gas in the same way. Having struck thus into Faraday's enquiry, ought he not to have left the matter in Faraday's hands? I think he ought. But, considering his relation to both Faraday and the hydrate of chlorine, Davy, I submit, may be excused for thinking differently. A father is not always wise enough to see that his son has ceased to be a boy, and estrangement on this account is not rare; nor was Davy wise enough to discern that Faraday had passed the mere assistant stage, and become a discoverer. It is now hard to avoid magnifying this error. But had Faraday died or ceased to work at this time, or had his subsequent life been devoted to money-getting, instead of to research, would anybody now dream of ascribing jealousy to Davy? Assuredly not. Why should he be jealous? His reputation at this time was almost without a parallel: his glory was without a cloud. He had added to his other discoveries that of Faraday, and after having been his teacher for seven years, his language to him was this: 'It gives me great pleasure to hear that you are comfortable at the Royal Institution, and I trust that you will not only do something good and honourable for yourself, but also for science.' This is not the language of jealousy, potential or actual. But the chlorine business introduced irritation and anger, to which, and not to any ignobler motive, Davy's opposition to the election of Faraday to the Royal Society is, I am persuaded, to be ascribed.
These matters are touched upon with perfect candour, and becoming consideration, in the volumes of Dr. Bence Jones; but in 'society' they are not always so handled. Here a name of noble intellectual associations is surrounded by injurious rumours which I would willingly scatter for ever. The pupil's magnitude, and the splendour of his position, are too great and absolute to need as a foil the humiliation of his master. Brothers in intellect, Davy and Faraday, however, could never have become brothers in feeling; their characters were too unlike. Davy loved the pomp and circumstance of fame; Faraday the inner consciousness that he had fairly won renown. They were both proud men. But with Davy pride projected itself into the outer world; while with Faraday it became a steadying and dignifying inward force. In one great particular they agreed. Each of them could have turned his science to immense commercial profit, but neither of them did so. The noble excitement of research, and the delight of discovery, constituted their reward. I commend them to the reverence which great gifts greatly exercised ought to inspire. They were both ours; and through the coming centuries England will be able to point with just pride to the possession of such men.
The first volume of the 'Life and Letters' reveals to us the youth who was to be father to the man. Skilful, aspiring, resolute, he grew steadily in knowledge and in power. Consciously or unconsciously, the relation of Action to Reaction was ever present to Faraday's mind. It had been fostered by his discovery of Magnetic Rotations, and it planted in him more daring ideas of a similar kind. Magnetism he knew could be evoked by electricity, and he thought that electricity, in its turn, ought to be capable of evolution by magnetism. On August 29, 1831, his experiments on this subject began. He had been fortified by previous trials, which, though failures, had begotten instincts directing him towards the truth. He, like every strong worker, might at times miss the outward object, but he always gained the inner light, education, and expansion. Of this Faraday's life was a constant illustration. By November he had discovered and colligated a multitude of the most wonderful and unexpected phenomena. He had generated currents by currents; currents by magnets, permanent and transitory; and he afterwards generated currents by the earth itself. Arago's 'Magnetism of Rotation,' which had for years offered itself as a challenge to the best scientific intellects of Europe, now fell into his hands. It proved to be a beautiful, but still special, illustration of the great principle of Magneto-electric Induction. Nothing equal to this latter, in the way of pure experimental enquiry, had previously been achieved.
Electricities from various sources were next examined, and their differences and resemblances revealed. He thus assured himself of their substantial identity. He then took up Conduction, and gave many striking illustrations of the influence of Fusion on Conducting Power. Renouncing professional work, from which at this time he might have derived an income of many thousands a year, he poured his whole momentum into his researches. He was long entangled in Electrochemistry. The light of law was for a time obscured by the thick umbrage of novel facts; but he finally emerged from his researches with the great principle of Definite Electro-chemical Decomposition in his hands. If his discovery of Magneto-electricity may be ranked with that of the pile by Volta, this new discovery, may almost stand beside that of Definite Combining Proportions in Chemistry. He passed on to Static Electricity—its Conduction, Induction, and Mode of Propagation. He discovered and illustrated the principle of Inductive Capacity; and, turning to theory, he asked himself how electrical attractions and repulsions are transmitted. Are they, like gravity, actions at a distance, or do they require a medium? If the former, then, like gravity, they will act in straight lines; if the latter, then, like sound or light, they may turn a corner. Faraday held—and his views are gaining ground—that his experiments proved the fact of curvilinear propagation, and hence the operation of a medium. Others denied this; but none can deny the profound and philosophic character of his leading thought. [Footnote: In a very remarkable paper published in Poggendorff's 'Annalen' for 1857, Werner Siemens accepts and develops Faraday's theory of Molecular Induction.] The first volume of the Researches contains all the papers here referred to.
Faraday had heard it stated that henceforth physical discoveries would be made solely by the aid of mathematics; that we had our data, and needed only to work deductively. Statements of a similar character crop out from time to time in our day. They arise from an imperfect acquaintance with the nature, present condition, and prospective vastness of the field of physical enquiry. The tendency of natural science doubtless is to bring all physical phenomena under the dominion of mechanical laws; to give them, in other words, mathematical expression. But our approach to this result is asymptotic; and for ages to come—possibly for all the ages of the human race—Nature will find room for both the philosophical experimenter and the mathematician. Faraday entered his protest against the foregoing statement by labelling his investigations 'Experimental Researches in Electricity.' They were completed in 1854, and three volumes of them have been published. For the sake of reference, he numbered every paragraph, the last number being 3362. In 1859 he collected and published a fourth volume of papers, under the title, 'Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics.' Thus did this apostle of experiment illustrate its power, and magnify his office.
The second volume of the Researches embraces memoirs on the Electricity of the Gymnotus; on the Source of Power in the Voltaic Pile; on the Electricity evolved by the Friction of Water and Steam, in which the phenomena and principles of Sir William Armstrong's Hydro-electric machine are described and developed; a paper on Magnetic Rotations, and Faraday's letters in relation to the controversy it aroused. The contribution of most permanent value here, is that on the Source of Power in the Voltaic Pile. By it the Contact Theory, pure and simple, was totally overthrown, and the necessity of chemical action to the maintenance of the current demonstrated.
The third volume of the Researches opens with a memoir entitled 'The Magnetisation of Light,' and the Illumination of Magnetic Lines of Force.' It is difficult even now to affix a definite meaning to this title; but the discovery of the rotation of the plane of polarisation, which it announced, seems pregnant with great results. The writings of William Thomson on the theoretic aspects of the discovery; the excellent electrodynamic measurements of Wilhelm Weber, which are models of experimental completeness and skill; Weber's labours in conjunction with his lamented friend Kohlrausch—above all, the researches of Clerk Maxwell on the Electro-magnetic Theory of Light—point to that wonderful and mysterious medium, which is the vehicle of light and radiant heat, as the probable basis also of magnetic and electric phenomena. The hope of such a connection was first raised by the discovery here referred to. [Footnote: A letter addressed to me by Professor Weber on March 18 last contains the following reference to the connection here mentioned: 'Die Hoffnung einer solchen Combination ist durch Faraday's Entdeckung der Drehung er Polarisationsebene durch magnetische Directionskraft zuerst, und sodann durch die Uebereinstimmung derjenigen Geschwindigkeit, welche das Verhaeltniss der electro-dynamischen Einheit zur lectro-statischen ausdrueckt, mit der Geschwindigkeit des Lichts angeregt worden; und mir scheint von allen Versuchen, welche zur erwirklichung dieser Hoffnung gemacht worden sind, das von Herrn Maxwell gemachte am erfolgreichsten.'] Faraday himself seemed to cling with particular affection to this discovery. He felt that there was more in it than he was able to unfold. He predicted that it would grow in meaning with the growth of science. This it has done; this it is doing now. Its right interpretation will probably mark an epoch in scientific history.
Rapidly following it is the discovery of Diamagnetism, or the repulsion of matter by a magnet. Brugmans had shown that bismuth repelled a magnetic needle. Here he stopped. Le Bailliff proved that antimony did the same. Here he stopped. Seebeck, Becquerel, and others, also touched the discovery. These fragmentary gleams excited a momentary curiosity and were almost forgotten, when Faraday independently alighted on the same facts; and, instead of stopping, made them the inlets to a new and vast region of research. The value of a discovery is to be measured by the intellectual action it calls forth; and it was Faraday's good fortune to strike such lodes of scientific truth as give occupation to some of the best intellects of our age.
The salient quality of Faraday's scientific character reveals itself from beginning to end of these volumes; a union of ardour and patience—the one prompting the attack, the other holding him on to it, till defeat was final or victory assured. Certainty in one sense or the other was necessary to his peace of mind. The right method of investigation is perhaps incommunicable; it depends on the individual rather than on the system, and the mark is missed when Faraday's researches are pointed to as merely illustrative of the power of the inductive philosophy. The brain may be filled with that philosophy; but without the energy and insight which this man possessed, and which with him were personal and distinctive, we should never rise to the level of his achievements. His power is that of individual genius, rather than of philosophic method; the energy of a strong soul expressing itself after its own fashion, and acknowledging no mediator between it and Nature.
The second volume of the 'Life and Letters,' like the first, is a historic treasury as regards Faraday's work and character, and his scientific and social relations. It contains letters from Humboldt, Herschel, Hachette, De la Rive, Dumas, Liebig, Melloni, Becquerel, Oersted, Plucker, Du Bois Reymond, Lord Melbourne, Prince Louis Napoleon, and many other distinguished men. I notice with particular pleasure a letter from Sir John Herschel, in reply to a sealed packet addressed to him by Faraday, but which he had permission to open if he pleased. The packet referred to one of the many unfulfilled hopes which spring up in the minds of fertile investigators:
'Go on and prosper, "from strength to strength," like a victor marching with assured step to further conquests; and be certain that no voice will join more heartily in the peans that already begin to rise, and will speedily swell into a shout of triumph, astounding even to yourself, than that of J. F. W. Herschel.'
Faraday's behaviour to Melloni in 1835 merits a word of notice. The young man was a political exile in Paris. He had newly fashioned and applied the thermo-electric pile, and had obtained with it results of the greatest importance. But they were not appreciated. With the sickness of disappointed hope Melloni waited for the report of the Commissioners, appointed by the Academy of Sciences to examine the Primier. At length he published his researches in the 'Annales de Chimie.' They thus fell into the hands of Faraday, who, discerning at once their extraordinary merit, obtained for their author the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society. A sum of money always accompanies this medal; and the pecuniary help was, at this time, even more essential than the mark of honour to the young refugee. Melloni's gratitude was boundless:
'Et vous, monsieur,' he writes to Faraday, 'qui appartenez a une societe a laquelle je n'avais rien offert, vous qui me connaissiez a peine de nom; vous n'avez pas demande si j'avais des ennemis faibles ou puissants, ni calcule quel en etait le nombre; mais vous avez parle pour l'opprime etranger, pour celui qui n'avait pas le moindre droit a tant de bienveillance, et vos paroles ont ete accueillies favorablement par des collegues consciencieux! Je reconnais bien la des hommes dignes de leur noble mission, les veritable representants de la science d'un pays libre et genereux.'
Within the prescribed limits of this article it would be impossible to give even the slenderest summary of Faraday's correspondence, or to carve from it more than the merest fragments of his character. His letters, written to Lord Melbourne and others in 1836, regarding his pension, illustrate his uncompromising independence. The Prime Minister had offended him, but assuredly the apology demanded and given was complete. I think 'it certain that, notwithstanding the very full account of this transaction given by Dr. Bence Jones, motives and influences were at work which even now are not entirely revealed. The minister was bitterly attacked, but he bore the censure of the press with great dignity. Faraday, while he disavowed having either directly or indirectly furnished the matter of those attacks, did not publicly exonerate the Premier. The Hon. Caroline Fox had proved herself Faraday's ardent friend, and it was she who had healed the breach between the philosopher and the minister. She manifestly thought that Faraday ought to have come forward in Lord Melbourne's defence, and there is a flavour of resentment in one of her letters to him on the subject. No doubt Faraday had good grounds for his reticence, but they are to me unknown.
In 1841 his health broke down utterly, and he went to Switzerland with his wife and brother-in-law. His bodily vigour soon revived, and he accomplished feats of walking respectable even for a trained mountaineer. The published extracts from his Swiss journal contain many beautiful and touching allusions. Amid references to the tints of the Jungfrau, the blue rifts of the glaciers, and the noble Niesen towering over the Lake of Thun, we come upon the charming little scrap which I have elsewhere quoted: 'Clout-nail making goes on here rather considerably, and is a very neat and pretty operation to observe. I love a smith's shop and anything relating to smithery. My father was a smith.' This is from his journal; but he is unconsciously speaking to somebody—perhaps to the world.
His description of the Staubbach, Giessbach, and of the scenic effects of sky and mountain, are all fine and sympathetic. But amid it all, and in reference to it all, he tells his sister that 'true enjoyment is from within, not from without.' In those days Agassiz was living under a slab of gneiss on the glacier of the Aar. Faraday met Forbes at the Grimsel, and arranged with him an excursion to the 'Hotel des Neufchatelois'; but indisposition put the project out.
From the Fort of Ham, in 1843, Faraday received a letter addressed to him by Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. He read this letter to me many years ago, and the desire, shown in various ways by the French Emperor, to turn modern science to account, has often reminded me of it since. At the age of thirty-five the prisoner of Ham speaks of 'rendering his captivity less sad by studying the great discoveries' which science owes to Faraday; and he asks a question which reveals his cast of thought at the time: 'What is the most simple combination to give to a voltaic battery, in order to produce a spark capable of setting fire to powder under water or under ground?' Should the necessity arise, the French Emperor will not lack at the outset the best appliances of modern science; while we, I fear, shall have to learn the magnitude of the resources we are now neglecting amid the pangs of actual war.' [Footnote: The 'science' has since been applied, with astonishing effect, by those who had studied it far more thoroughly than the Emperor of the French. We also, I am happy to think, have improved the time since the above words were written .]
One turns with renewed pleasure to Faraday's letters to his wife, published in the second volume. Here surely the loving essence of the man appears more distinctly than anywhere else. From the house of Dr. Percy, in Birmingham, he writes thus:
'Here—even here the moment I leave the table, I wish I were with you IN QUIET. Oh, what happiness is ours! My runs into the world in this way only serve to make me esteem that happiness the more.'
'We have been to a grand conversazione in the town-hall, and I have now returned to my room to talk with you, as the pleasantest and happiest thing that I can do. Nothing rests me so much as communion with you. I feel it even now as I write, and catch myself saying the words aloud as I write them.'
Take this, moreover, as indicative of his love for Nature:
'After writing, I walk out in the evening hand in hand with my dear wife to enjoy the sunset; for to me who love scenery, of all that I have seen or can see, there is none surpasses that of heaven. A glorious sunset brings with it a thousand thoughts that delight me.'
Of the numberless lights thrown upon him by the Life and Letters,' some fall upon his religion. In a letter to Lady Lovelace, he describes himself as belonging to 'a very small and despised sect of Christians, known, if known at all, as Sandemanians, and our hope is founded on the faith that is in Christ.' He adds: 'I do not think it at all necessary to tie the study of the natural sciences and religion together, and in my intercourse with my fellow-creatures, that which is religious, and that which is philosophical, have ever been two distinct things.' He saw clearly the danger of quitting his moorings, and his science acted indirectly as the safeguard of his faith. For his investigations so filled his mind as to leave no room for sceptical questionings, thus shielding from the assaults of philosophy, the creed of his youth. His religion was constitutional and hereditary. It was implied in the eddies of his blood and in the tremors of his brain; and, however its outward and visible form might have changed, Faraday would still have possessed its elemental constituents—awe, reverence, truth, and love.
It is worth enquiring how so profoundly religious a mind, and so great a teacher, would be likely to regard our present discussions on the subject of education. Faraday would be a 'secularist' were he now alive. He had no sympathy with those who contemn knowledge unless it be accompanied by dogma. A lecture delivered before the City Philosophical Society in 1818, when he was twenty-six years of age, expresses the views regarding education which he entertained to the end of his life. 'First, then,' he says, 'all theological considerations are banished from the society, and of course from my remarks; and whatever I may say has no reference to a future state, or to the means which are to be adopted in this world in anticipation of it. Next, I have no intention of substituting anything for religion, but I wish to take that part of human nature which is independent of it. Morality, philosophy, commerce, the various institutions and habits of society, are independent of religion, and may exist either with or without it. They are always the same, and can dwell alike in the breasts of those who, from opinion, are entirely opposed in the set of principles they include in the term religion, or in those who have none.
'To discriminate more closely, if possible, I will observe that we have no right to judge religious opinions; but the human nature of this evening is that part of man which we have a right to judge. And I think it will be found on examination, that this humanity—as it may perhaps be called—will accord with what I have before described as being in our own hands so improvable and perfectible.'
In an old journal I find the following remarks on one of my earliest dinners with Faraday: 'At two o'clock he came down for me. He, his niece, and myself, formed the party, "I never give dinners," he said. "I don't know how to give dinners, and I never dine out. But I should not like my friends to attribute this to a wrong cause. I act thus for the sake of securing time for work, and not through religious motives, as some imagine." He said grace. I am almost ashamed to call his prayer a "saying Of grace." In the language of Scripture, it might be described as the petition of a son, into whose heart God had sent the Spirit of His Son, and who with absolute trust asked a blessing from his father. We dined on roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and potatoes; drank sherry, talked of research and its requirements, and of his habit of keeping himself free from the distractions of society. He was bright and joyful—boy-like, in fact, though he is now sixty-two. His work excites admiration, but contact with him warms and elevates the heart. Here, surely, is a strong man. I love strength; but let me not forget the example of its union with modesty, tenderness, and sweetness, in the character of Faraday.'
Faraday's progress in discovery, and the salient points of his character, are well brought out by the wise choice of letters and extracts published in the volumes before us. I will not call the labours of the biographer final. So great a character will challenge reconstruction. In the coming time some sympathetic spirit, with the requisite strength, knowledge, and solvent power, will, I doubt not, render these materials plastic, give them more perfect organic form, and send through them, with less of interruption, the currents of Faraday's life. 'He was too good a man,' writes his present biographer, 'for me to estimate rightly, and too great a philosopher for me to understand thoroughly.' That may be: but the reverent affection to which we owe the discovery, selection, and arrangement of the materials here placed before us, is probably a surer guide than mere literary skill. The task of the artist who may wish in future times to reproduce the real though unobtrusive grandeur, the purity, beauty, and childlike simplicity of him whom we have lost, will find his chief treasury already provided for him by Dr. Bence Jones's labour of love.
XIX. THE COPLEY MEDALIST OF 1870.
THIRTY years ago Electro-magnetism was looked to as a motive power, which might possibly compete with steam. In centres of industry, such as Manchester, attempts to investigate and apply this power were numerous. This is shown by the scientific literature of the time. Among others Mr. James Prescot Joule, a resident of Manchester, took up the subject, and, in a series of papers published in Sturgeon's 'Annals of Electricity' between 1839 and 1841, described various attempts at the construction and perfection of electro-magnetic engines. The spirit in which Mr. Joule pursued these enquiries is revealed in the following extract: 'I am particularly anxious,' he says, 'to communicate any new arrangement in order, if possible, to forestall the monopolising designs of those who seem to regard this most interesting subject merely in the light of pecuniary speculation.' He was naturally led to investigate the laws of electro-magnetic attractions, and in 1840 he announced the important principle that the attractive force exerted by two electromagnets, or by an electro-magnet and a mass of annealed iron, is directly proportional to the square of the strength of the magnetising current; while the attraction exerted between, an electro-magnet and the pole of a permanent steel magnet, varies simply as the strength of the current. These investigations were conducted independently of, though a little subsequently to, the celebrated enquiries of Henry, Jacobi, and Lenz and Jacobi, on the same subject.
On December 17, 1840, Mr. Joule communicated to the Royal Society a paper on the production of heat by Voltaic electricity. In it he announced the law that the calorific effects of equal quantities of transmitted electricity are proportional to the resistance overcome by the current, whatever may be the length, thickness, shape, or character of the metal which closes the circuit; and also proportional to the square of the quantity of transmitted electricity. This is a law of primary importance. In another paper, presented to, but declined by, the Royal Society, he confirmed this law by new experiments, and materially extended it. He also executed experiments on the heat consequent on the passage of Voltaic electricity through electrolytes, and found, in all cases, that the heat evolved by the proper action of any Voltaic current is proportional to the square of the intensity of that current, multiplied by the resistance to conduction which it experiences. From this law he deduced a number of conclusions of the highest importance to electrochemistry.
It was during these enquiries, which are marked throughout by rare sagacity and originality, that the great idea of establishing quantitative relations between Mechanical Energy and Heat arose and assumed definite form in his mind. In 1843 Mr. Joule read before the meeting of the British Association at Cork a. paper' On the Calorific Effects of Magneto-Electricity, and on the Mechanical Value of Heat.' Even at the present day this memoir is tough reading, and at the time it was written it must have appeared hopelessly entangled. This, I should think, was the reason why Faraday advised Mr. Joule not to submit the paper to the Royal Society. But its drift and results are summed up in these memorable words by its author, written some time subsequently: 'In that paper it was demonstrated experimentally, that the mechanical power exerted in turning a magneto-electric machine is converted into the heat evolved by the passage of the currents of induction through its coils; and, on the other hand, that the motive power of the electromagnetic engine is obtained at the expense of the heat due to the chemical reaction of the battery by which it is worked.' [Footnote: Phil. Mag. May, 1845.] It is needless to dwell upon the weight and importance of this statement.
Considering the imperfections incidental to a first determination, it is not surprising that the 'mechanical values of heat,' deduced from the different series of experiments published in 1843, varied widely from each other. The lowest limit was 587, and the highest 1,026 foot-pounds, for 1 degree Fahr. of temperature.
One noteworthy result of his enquiries, which was pointed out at the time by Mr. Joule, had reference to the exceedingly small fraction of the heat actually converted into useful effect in the steam-engine. The thoughts of the celebrated Julius Robert Mayer, who was then engaged in Germany upon the same question, had moved independently in the same groove; but to his labours due reference will be made on a future occasion. [Footnote: See the next Fragment.] In the memoir now referred to, Mr. Joule also announced that he had proved heat to be evolved during the passage of water through narrow tubes; and he deduced from these experiments an equivalent of 770 foot-pounds, a figure remarkably near the one now accepted. A detached statement regarding the origin and convertibility of animal heat strikingly illustrates the penetration of Mr. Joule, and his mastery of principles, at the period now referred to. A friend had mentioned to him Haller's hypothesis, that animal heat might arise from the friction of the blood in the veins and arteries. 'It is unquestionable,' writes Mr. Joule,' that heat is produced by such friction; but it must be understood that the mechanical force expended in the friction is a part of the force of affinity which causes the venous blood to unite with oxygen, so that the whole heat of the system must still be referred to the chemical changes. But if the animal were engaged in turning a piece of machinery, or in ascending a mountain, I apprehend that in proportion to the muscular effort put forth for the purpose, a diminution of the heat evolved in the system by a given chemical action would be experienced.' The italics in this memorable passage, written, it is to be remembered, in 1843, are Mr. Joule's own.