Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/665

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645
A COMBAT WITH AN INFECTIVE ATMOSPHERE.

was found that on the cessation of the ebullition, although the pipette was immediately plugged with cotton-wool, and the bent tubes also plugged with cotton-wool, still, in consequence of the contraction of the air within, there was a considerable indraught. Last year, we found invariably that the interposition of the cotton-wool entirely sifted this entering air so as to arrest any germs or seeds that it might contain. I thought, however, in this case, that the germs might be carried in by the suction when the air of the chamber contracted. In the former case, we operated after having filled the chamber with the infusion and boiled it in the laboratory; in this case, we took the additional precaution of boiling the infusion up-stairs, and taking care that it was properly plugged with cotton-wool. But here, again, notwithstanding this augmented care, the infusion utterly gave way, and showed those evidences of life that had distracted me previously. When I say distracted, it is not meant that I was in the least degree daunted or perplexed about it. I knew perfectly well that the matter would be probed by-and-by. On November 27th a new chamber was constructed containing cucumber and turnip. Particular care was taken with the stopping of the pipette, and also the bent tubes opening into the atmosphere. In one instance, about this time, it was noticed that the infusions in the tubes within the chamber opening into the moteless air, or at least what I supposed to be the moteless air, fell more rapidly into a state of putrefaction, became more rapidly covered with scum, than the tubes exposed in the air outside. When the tubes containing precisely the same infusion were exposed to the air outside, they were perfectly clear, while those within were turbid and covered with scum. This brought to my mind an experiment made the previous year with trays placed one above the other.

It was found that, when two trays were placed one above the other, although the upper tray had the whole air of the room for its germs to deposit themselves, the under tray was always in advance of the upper in the development of life. The reason was simply this: The air in the under tray was less agitated, and this floating matter had time slowly to sink in the infusions. There was no other solution possible than that, by some means or other, the germs had insinuated themselves into my chamber, and that these germs, sinking slowly through the unagitated air of the chamber, were able to produce the effect within in advance of the effect produced upon the openly-exposed tubes without. On November 27th I had a similar case, and also on November 30th, and on December 1st. The chambers were prepared and filled with all care, and yet the infusions broke down, became turbid, and were covered with scum. I then had a number of tubes filled with infusions, and sealed them hermetically. They were exposed in an oil-bath, and heated for a quarter of an hour to a temperature of 230° Fahr., for I wanted to see whether these effects were due to any germs of life in the infusions themselves. This superheated