Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/223

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211
A HALF-CENTURY OF SCIENCE.

regard the entire material universe as a gigantic engine, and that after long use we have exhausted all the fuel (in its most general sense) in the world; then all the energy available will have become dissipated, and we shall have arrived at a condition of things from which there is no apparent escape.

 

Professor Frankland has been so good as to draw up for me the following account of the progress of chemistry during the last half-century: Most of the elements had been discovered before 1830, the majority of the rarer elements since the beginning of the century. In addition to these the following five have been discovered, three of them by Mosander, viz.: lanthanum in 1839, didymium in 1842, and erbium in 1843. Ruthenium was discovered by Claus in 1843, and niobium by Rose in 1844. Spectrum analysis has added five to the list, viz.: cæsium and rubidium, which were discovered by Bunsen and Kirchhoff in 1860; thallium, by Crookes in 1861; indium, by Reich and Richter in 1863; and gallium, by Lecoq de Boisbaudran in 1875.

As regards theoretical views, the atomic theory, the foundation of scientific chemistry, had been propounded by Dalton (1804-1808). The three laws which have been chiefly instrumental in establishing the true atomic weights of the elements—the law of Avogadro (1811), that equal volumes of gases, under the same conditions of temperature and pressure, contain equal numbers of molecules; the law of Dulong and Petit (1819), that the capacities for heat of the atoms of the various elements are equal; and Mitscherlich's law of isomorphism (1819), according to which equal numbers of atoms of elements belonging to the same class may replace each other in a compound without altering the crystalline form of the latter—had been enunciated in quick succession; but the true application of these three laws., though in every case distinctly stated by the discoverers, failed to be generally made, and it was not till the rectification of the atomic weights by Cannizzaro, in 1858, that these important discoveries bore fruit.

In organic chemistry the views most generally held about the year 1830 were expressed in the radical theory of Berzelius. This theory, which was first stated in its electro-chemical and dualistic form by its author in 1817, received a further development at his hands in 1834, after the discovery of the benzoyl-radical by Liebig and Wöhler. In the same year (1834), however, a discovery was made by Dumas, which was destined profoundly to modify the electro-chemical portion of the theory, and even to overthrow the form of it put forth by Berzelius. Dumas showed that an electro-negative element, such as chlorine, might replace, atom for atom, an electro-positive element like hydrogen, in some cases without much alteration in the character of the compound. This law of substitution has formed a necessary portion of every chemical theory which has been proposed since its discovery,