Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/565

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
561
JOSIAH WILLARD GIBBS

pressure is not an initial force, but a secondary hydrostatic pressure due "to the same affinity which produces adhesion, imbibition, absorption, adsorption, solution and chemical action." But all these forces are reducible in the simple reasoning of thermodynamics to the difference in temperature (Carnot's principle) and differences of chemical potentials which promote chemical change. As to molecular bombardment, "osmotic pressure," said Fitzgerald, in 1896, "is more nearly related to Laplace's internal pressure in a liquid which depends upon intramolecular forces, than to a gaseous pressure which is practically independent of the forces acting between the molecules."[1] Van Laar pictures a sugar solution of reasonable concentration as made up of crooked movements of molecules, slowly crowding upon one another, with no intervening spaces, totally different from the rapid billiard ball movements with wide repulsions that are supposed to obtain in diluted gases. Osmosis, in van Laar's theory depends not upon the molecules of the dissolved substance, but upon the solvent itself, which, having the higher chemical potential, moves toward the solute. To explain the phenomena of osmosis by appealing to an initial osmotic pressure, says van Laar,[2] is like saying that an angry man's loud talk and unseemly gestures are due to his red face.[3] Anger is the real cause of both. So the movement in osmosis, which produces a difference in hydrostatic pressure, depends initially upon differences of chemical and thermodynamic potentials. Beyond this we know absolutely nothing of the interaction between the solvent and the solute. Again Bancroft has shown that the pressure for finite solutions in osmosis varies with the heat of dilution, which again varies with the specific nature of the solvent and the solute.[4] All this brings us back to Gibbs's fundamental position that osmotic pressure "is a function of the temperature and the n potentials.[5] From this point of view, Graham's original doctrine, that osmosis is the conversion of chemical affinity into mechanical power,[6] is at once true to the mathematical theory and the laboratory facts. If now we agree with Whetham that "osmotic phenomena are intrenched in the strongest part of the vast lines occupied by the science of thermodynamics," it is clearly due to the early pioneer work of Gibbs that this vantage ground was gained in the first instance, while the molecular theory of osmosis remains in the debatable land of controversy and a true theory of solutions is still far to seek.

(To be continued)


  1. Fitzgerald, Nature, London, 1895-6, LIII., 297.
  2. Van Laar, "Sechs Vorträge über das thermodynamische Potential," Braunschweig, 1906, 3.
  3. Ibid., 34.
  4. Bancroft, J. Phys. Chem., 1906, X., 319-29.
  5. Gibbs, loc. cit., 139.
  6. Graham, Phil. Tr., 1854, 227.