Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/493

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
479
THE DISCOVERY OF THE ELEMENTS.

of rubidium, and the basylity of rubidium inferior to that of cæsium, which is indeed the most powerfully basylous, or oxidizable, or electro-positive element known.

Since 1860, both rubidium and cæsium have been recognized as minute constituents of a considerable number of minerals and mineral waters, rubidium having been met with for the most part in a larger proportion by weight than cæsium. Unlike potash, originally known as vegetable alkali, cæsium has not been recognized in the vegetable kingdom; but rubidium has been found as a very common, minute constituent of vegetable ashes, as those of beet-root, oak-wood, tobacco, grapes, coffee, tea, etc. On the other hand, cæsium, free from rubidium, has been found in a tolerably well-known, though rare, mineral from the island of Elba, to the extent of 32 per cent. by weight of the mineral. The history of this mineral is curious: from the circumstance of its always occurring in association with another mineral, a variety of petalite, the two were called Castor and Pollux. Castor was found to be substantially a silicate of alumina and lithia; pollux a silicate of alumina, and, as it was thought, of potash. The constituents of pollux, namely, silica, alumina, and potash, with small proportions of ferric oxide, lime, soda, and water, were duly estimated; but the quantities of these constituents, found in 100 parts of the mineral, instead of amounting to 100 parts or thereabouts, amounted only to 88 parts, there being somehow a loss of 12 per cent, in the analysis. After Bunsen's discovery of the new alkali-metals, pollux was analyzed afresh by Pisani, who soon perceived that what had formerly been taken for potash, and estimated as potash, was not potash at all, but cæsia. Then calculating out his own analysis with cæsia instead of potash, substituting the one for the other in the proportion of 133 + 8, or 141 parts of cæsia, for 39 + 8, or 47 parts of potash, he found that the quantities of the different constituents furnished by 100 parts of the mineral yielded by their addition the full sum of 100 parts required.

 

In submitting to spectroscopic examination a certain residue left by the distillation of some impure selenium, Mr. Crookes, early in 1861, recognized in the spectrum before him a brilliant-green line, from which he inferred the presence in the above residue of a new element; and by the end of the same year he had succeeded in establishing the tolerably wide distribution of this element, to which he gave the name of thallium; in procuring it, though but in small quantity, in a separate state; and in satisfying himself of its metallic character. Soon afterward, and without knowledge of Mr. Crookes's later results, the metal was obtained by M. Lamy, on a comparatively large scale, and was exhibited by him in the form of small ingots at the London Exhibition of 1862. He procured it from the fine dust met with in some oil-of-vitriol factories, as a deposit in the flues leading from the pyrites