Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/701

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683
ODORS AND THE SENSE OF SMELL.

acetic and benzoic acids, which, can unite with bases and form salts; and the ethers, the results of the association of alcohols, acids, or other alcohols, among which are the oils of the onion and of mustard. Among quaternary compounds we have the alkaloids formed by the union of the alcohols with ammonia or other alkalies, amides formed by the union of ammonia and acids with the separation of the elements of water; and the metallic radical compounds which are obtained by the reaction of metals on some of the ethers.

Perfumes are, in general, binary or ternary compounds characterized by the fact that the proportion of equivalents of hydrogen to those of carbon diminishes at the same rate as those of another class of products very rich in hydrogen which are called the fatty series, while this class of products, less rich in hydrogen, is called the aromatic series. Is there any relation between odor and chemical composition? An English physiologist, Mr. John Berry Hay craft, in his studies of the savors and odors, and savors of the principal compounds of each natural family of bodies, particularly of compounds of the family oxygen, sulphur, chromium, selenium, molybdenum, tellurium, didymium, tungsten, and uranium, has observed modifications in odor corresponding with increase in atomic weights. For example, sulphureted hydrogen, hydrogen selenide, and hydrogen telluride smell like rotten eggs. The compounds of elements of this family with methyl and ethyl have an alliaceous odor. So with the family chlorine, bromine, and iodine; the acids which these bodies form with hydrogen and their compounds with methyl, ethyl, and ethylene have similar odors, so that some among them seem to share them with their neighbors; bromof orm, for example, having a similar odor with chloroform and iodoform. Passing to the organic series, Mr. Haycraft observes in the monatomic alcohols a modification of odor corresponding with variations in atomic weight. Methyl alcohol, for instance, has a weak odor of alcohol; ethyl alcohol has the typical alcoholic odor; propylic alcohol has both an alcoholic odor and a special smell; isobutylic, amylic, and octylic alcohols progressively lose the alcoholic odor and acquire as against it a special scent. The same facts are remarked in the fatty acids and hydrocarbons.

Similar odors may be furnished by bodies without likeness in chemical composition. Arsenic in oxidizing disengages vapors that have the odor of garlic. Nitrobenzene, benzoic aldehyde, and prussic acid smell much alike. It has been asserted that emeralds pounded and ground several hours a day for three weeks had emitted a well-defined odor of violets. The fact has been verified; but it has yet to be determined whether it is due to the manipulation or to organic substances that have been released by