Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/226

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teach us the habits of the living substance. The rays of light which have threaded their way between the molecules of a body have undergone, in contact with these molecules, various specific and measurable changes, the nature and amount of which are assuredly conditioned by the mass, form, and other properties of the molecules: the plane of polarization has been caused to rotate; a particular degree of refraction has been imparted; or rays of certain wave-lengths have been removed by absorption, their absence being manifested by bands in the absorption spectrum of the substance. The volumes occupied by molecular quantities are dependent partly on the size of the molecules and partly on that of the intermolecular spaces.

The duty of the physical chemist is to endeavor to co-ordinate his physical observations with the known constitution of compounds as already determined by the pure chemist. This endeavor has in various branches of physical chemistry been to some extent successful. Le Bel has found that among organic compounds those only possess action on the plane of polarized light which contain at least one asymmetric carbon-atom—that is to say, a carbon-atom which is united to four different atoms or groups of atoms. The researches of Landolt, of Gladstone, and of Brühl on the specific refraction of organic liquids, have shown that from the known constitution of a liquid organic compound it is possible to calculate its specific refraction. Noel Hartley, in an examination of the absorption spectra of organic liquids for the ultra-violet rays, has demonstrated that certain molecular groupings are represented by particular absorption bands, and this line of inquiry has been extended with very interesting results to the ultra-red rays by Abney and Festing. It is obvious that these methods may in turn be employed to determine the unknown constitution of substances. The same holds true of the investigations of Kopp with regard to the molecular volumes of liquids at their boiling-points, in which he has established the remarkable fact that some elements always possess the same atomic volume in combination, whereas, in the case of certain other elements, the atomic volume varies in a perfectly definite manner with the mode of combination. This investigation has lately been extended with the best results by Thorpe and by Ramsay. Thermo-chemistry, also, which for a long time, at least as regards that portion which relates to the heat of formation of compounds, consisted chiefly of a collection of single equations, each containing three unknown quantities, is beginning to be interpreted by Julius Thomsen, whose experimental work in this field is well known. Many other methods of physico-chemical research are being successfully prosecuted at the present day, but it would go beyond the bounds of this summary even to enumerate these.

The concordant results obtained by these widely differing methods show that those chemists who have devoted themselves, frequently amid the ridicule of their more practical brethren, to ascertaining by