THE CHEMICAL HISTORY OF A CANDLE
A COURSE OF LECTURES DELIVERED BEFORE A JUVENILE AUDIENCE AT THE ROYAL INSTITUTION
MICHAEL FARADAY, D.C.L., F.R.S.
WILLIAM CROOKES, F.C.S.
A NEW IMPRESSION, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
CHATTO & WINDUS
From the primitive pine-torch to the paraffin candle, how wide an interval! between them how vast a contrast! The means adopted by man to illuminate his home at night, stamp at once his position in the scale of civilisation. The fluid bitumen of the far East, blazing in rude vessels of baked earth; the Etruscan lamp, exquisite in form, yet ill adapted to its office; the whale, seal, or bear fat, filling the hut of the Esquimaux or Lap with odour rather than light; the huge wax candle on the glittering altar, the range of gas lamps in our streets,—all have their stories to tell. All, if they could speak (and, after their own manner, they can), might warm our hearts in telling, how they have ministered to man's comfort, love of home, toil, and devotion.
Surely, among the millions of fire-worshippers and fire-users who have passed away in earlier ages, some have pondered over the mystery of fire; perhaps some clear minds have guessed shrewdly near the truth. Think of the time man has lived in hopeless ignorance: think that only during a period which might be spanned by the life of one man, has the truth been known.
Atom by atom, link by link, has the reasoning chain been forged. Some links, too quickly and too slightly made, have given way, and been replaced by better work; but now the great phenomena are known—the outline is correctly and firmly drawn—cunning artists are filling in the rest, and the child who masters these Lectures knows more of fire than Aristotle did.
The candle itself is now made to light up the dark places of nature; the blowpipe and the prism are adding to our knowledge of the earth's crust; but the torch must come first.
Among the readers of this book some few may devote themselves to increasing the stores of knowledge: the Lamp of Science must burn. "Alere flammam."
A CANDLE: THE FLAME—ITS SOURCES—STRUCTURE—MOBILITY—BRIGHTNESS
BRIGHTNESS OF THE FLAME—AIR NECESSARY FOR COMBUSTION—PRODUCTION OF WATER
PRODUCTS: WATER FROM THE COMBUSTION—NATURE OF WATER—A COMPOUND—HYDROGEN
HYDROGEN IN THE CANDLE—BURNS INTO WATER—THE OTHER PART OF WATER—OXYGEN
OXYGEN PRESENT IN THE AIR—NATURE OF THE ATMOSPHERE—ITS PROPERTIES—OTHER PRODUCTS FROM THE CANDLE—CARBONIC ACID—ITS PROPERTIES
CARBON OR CHARCOAL—COAL GAS—RESPIRATION AND ITS ANALOGY TO THE BURNING OP A CANDLE—CONCLUSION
LECTURE ON PLATINUM.
THE CHEMICAL HISTORY OF A CANDLE
A CANDLE: THE FLAME—ITS SOURCES—STRUCTURE—MOBILITY—BRIGHTNESS.
I purpose, in return for the honour you do us by coming to see what are our proceedings here, to bring before you, in the course of these lectures, the Chemical History of a Candle. I have taken this subject on a former occasion; and were it left to my own will, I should prefer to repeat it almost every year—so abundant is the interest that attaches itself to the subject, so wonderful are the varieties of outlet which it offers into the various departments of philosophy. There is not a law under which any part of this universe is governed which does not come into play, and is touched upon in these phenomena. There is no better, there is no more open door by which you can enter into the study of natural philosophy, than by considering the physical phenomena of a candle. I trust, therefore, I shall not disappoint you in choosing this for my subject rather than any newer topic, which could not be better, were it even so good.
And before proceeding, let me say this also—that though our subject be so great, and our intention that of treating it honestly, seriously, and philosophically, yet I mean to pass away from all those who are seniors amongst us. I claim the privilege of speaking to juveniles as a juvenile myself. I have done so on former occasions—and, if you please, I shall do so again. And though I stand here with the knowledge of having the words I utter given to the world, yet that shall not deter me from speaking in the same familiar way to those whom I esteem nearest to me on this occasion.
And now, my boys and girls, I must first tell you of what candles are made. Some are great curiosities. I have here some bits of timber, branches of trees particularly famous for their burning. And here you see a piece of that very curious substance taken out of some of the bogs in Ireland, called candle-wood,—a hard, strong, excellent wood, evidently fitted for good work as a resister of force, and yet withal burning so well that where it is found they make splinters of it, and torches, since it burns like a candle, and gives a very good light indeed. And in this wood we have one of the most beautiful illustrations of the general nature of a candle that I can possibly give. The fuel provided, the means of bringing that fuel to the place of chemical action, the regular and gradual supply of air to that place of action—heat and light—all produced by a little piece of wood of this kind, forming, in fact, a natural candle.
But we must speak of candles as they are in commerce. Here are a couple of candles commonly called dips. They are made of lengths of cotton cut off, hung up by a loop, dipped into melted tallow, taken out again and cooled, then re-dipped until there is an accumulation of tallow round the cotton. In order that you may have an idea of the various characters of these candles, you see these which I hold in my hand—they are very small, and very curious. They are, or were, the candles used by the miners in coal mines. In olden times the miner had to find his own candles; and it was supposed that a small candle would not so soon set fire to the fire-damp in the coal mines as a large one; and for that reason, as well as for economy's sake, he had candles made of this sort—20, 30, 40, or 60 to the pound. They have been replaced since then by the steel-mill, and then by the Davy-lamp, and other safety-lamps of various kinds. I have here a candle that was taken out of the Royal George, it is said, by Colonel Pasley. It has been sunk in the sea for many years, subject to the action of salt water. It shews you how well candles may be preserved; for though it is cracked about and broken a good deal, yet, when lighted, it goes on burning regularly, and the tallow resumes its natural condition as soon as it is fused.
Mr. Field, of Lambeth, has supplied me abundantly with beautiful illustrations of the candle and its materials. I shall therefore now refer to them. And, first, there is the suet—the fat of the ox—Russian tallow, I believe, employed in the manufacture of these dips, which Gay Lussac, or some one who entrusted him with his knowledge, converted into that beautiful substance, stearin, which you see lying beside it. A candle, you know, is not now a greasy thing like an ordinary tallow candle, but a clean thing, and you may almost scrape off and pulverise the drops which fall from it without soiling anything. This is the process he adopted:—The fat or tallow is first boiled with quick-lime, and made into a soap, and then the soap is decomposed by sulphuric acid, which takes away the lime, and leaves the fat re-arranged as stearic acid, whilst a quantity of glycerin is produced at the same time. Glycerin—absolutely a sugar, or a substance similar to sugar—comes out of the tallow in this chemical change. The oil is then pressed out of it; and you see here this series of pressed cakes, shewing how beautifully the impurities are carried out by the oily part as the pressure goes on increasing, and at last you have left that substance which is melted, and cast into candles as here represented. The candle I have in my hand is a stearin candle, made of stearin from tallow in the way I have told you. Then here is a sperm candle, which comes from the purified oil of the spermaceti whale. Here also are yellow bees-wax and refined bees-wax, from which candles are made. Here, too, is that curious substance called paraffin, and some paraffin candles made of paraffin obtained from the bogs of Ireland. I have here also a substance brought from Japan, since we have forced an entrance into that out-of-the-way place—a sort of wax which a kind friend has sent me, and which forms a new material for the manufacture of candles.
And how are these candles made? I have told you about dips, and I will shew you how moulds are made. Let us imagine any of these candles to be made of materials which can be cast. "Cast!" you say. "Why, a candle is a thing that melts; and surely if you can melt it, you can cast it." Not so. It is wonderful, in the progress of manufacture, and in the consideration of the means best fitted to produce the required result, how things turn up which one would not expect beforehand. Candles cannot always be cast. A wax candle can never be cast. It is made by a particular process, which I can illustrate in a minute or two: but I must not spend much time on it. Wax is a thing which, burning so well, and melting so easily in a candle, cannot be cast. However, let us take a material that can be cast. Here is a frame, with a number of moulds fastened in it. The first thing to be done is to put a wick through them. Here is one—a plaited wick, which does not require snuffing—supported by a little wire. It goes to the bottom, where it is pegged in—the little peg holding the cotton tight, and stopping the aperture, so that nothing fluid shall run out. At the upper part there is a little bar placed across, which stretches the cotton and holds it in the mould. The tallow is then melted, and the moulds are filled. After a certain time, when the moulds are cool, the excess of tallow is poured off at one corner, and then cleaned off altogether, and the ends of the wick cut away. The candles alone then remain in the mould, and you have only to upset them, as I am doing, when out they tumble, for the candles are made in the form of cones, being narrower at the top than at the bottom; so that what with their form and their own shrinking, they only need a little shaking, and out they fall. In the same way are made these candles of stearin and of paraffin. It is a curious thing to see how wax candles are made. A lot of cottons are hung upon frames, as you see here, and covered with metal tags at the ends to keep the wax from covering the cotton in those places. These are carried to a heater, where the wax is melted. As you see, the frames can turn round; and as they turn, a man takes a vessel of wax and pours it first down one, and then the next and the next, and so on. When he has gone once round, if it is sufficiently cool, he gives the first a second coat, and so on until they are all of the required thickness. When they have been thus clothed, or fed, or made up to that thickness, they are taken off, and placed elsewhere. I have here, by the kindness of Mr. Field, several specimens of these candles. Here is one only half-finished. They are then taken down, and well rolled upon a fine stone slab, and the conical top is moulded by properly shaped tubes, and the bottoms cut off and trimmed. This is done so beautifully that they can make candles in this way weighing exactly four, or six, to the pound, or any number they please.
We must not, however, take up more time about the mere manufacture, but go a little further into the matter. I have not yet referred you to luxuries in candles (for there is such a thing as luxury in candles). See how beautifully these are coloured: you see here mauve, magenta, and all the chemical colours recently introduced, applied to candles. You observe, also, different forms employed. Here is a fluted pillar most beautifully shaped; and I have also here some candles sent me by Mr. Pearsall, which are ornamented with designs upon them, so that as they burn you have as it were a glowing sun above, and a bouquet of flowers beneath. All, however, that is fine and beautiful is not useful. These fluted candles, pretty as they are, are bad candles; they are bad because of their external shape. Nevertheless, I shew you these specimens sent to me from kind friends on all sides, that you may see what is done, and what may be done in this or that direction; although, as I have said, when we come to these refinements, we are obliged to sacrifice a little in utility.
Now, as to the light of the candle. We will light one or two, and set them at work in the performance of their proper functions. You observe a candle is a very different thing from a lamp. With a lamp you take a little oil, fill your vessel, put in a little moss or some cotton prepared by artificial means, and then light the top of the wick. When the flame runs down the cotton to the oil, it gets extinguished, but it goes on burning in the part above. Now, I have no doubt you will ask, how is it that the oil, which will not burn of itself, gets up to the top of the cotton, where it will burn? We shall presently examine that; but there is a much more wonderful thing about the burning of a candle than this. You have here a solid substance with no vessel to contain it; and how is it that this solid substance can get up to the place where the flame is? How is it that this solid gets there, it not being a fluid? or, when it is made a fluid, then how is it that it keeps together? This is a wonderful thing about a candle.
We have here a good deal of wind, which will help us in some of our illustrations, but tease us in others; for the sake, therefore, of a little regularity, and to simplify the matter, I shall make a quiet flame—for who can study a subject when there are difficulties in the way not belonging to it? Here is a clever invention of some costermonger or street stander in the market-place for the shading of their candles on Saturday nights, when they are selling their greens, or potatoes, or fish. I have very often admired it. They put a lamp-glass round the candle, supported on a kind of gallery, which clasps it, and it can be slipped up and down as required. By the use of this lamp-glass, employed in the same way, you have a steady flame, which you can look at, and carefully examine, as I hope you will do, at home.
You see, then, in the first instance, that a beautiful cup is formed. As the air comes to the candle it moves upwards by the force of the current which the heat of the candle produces, and it so cools all the sides of the wax, tallow, or fuel, as to keep the edge much cooler than the part within; the part within melts by the flame that runs down the wick as far as it can go before it is extinguished, but the part on the outside does not melt. If I made a current in one direction, my cup would be lop-sided, and the fluid would consequently run over,—for the same force of gravity which holds worlds together holds this fluid in a horizontal position, and if the cup be not horizontal, of course the fluid will run away in guttering. You see, therefore, that the cup is formed by this beautifully regular ascending current of air playing upon all sides, which keeps the exterior of the candle cool. No fuel would serve for a candle which has not the property of giving this cup, except such fuel as the Irish bogwood, where the material itself is like a sponge, and holds its own fuel. You see now why you would have had such a bad result if you were to burn these beautiful candles that I have shewn you, which are irregular, intermittent in their shape, and cannot therefore have that nicely-formed edge to the cup which is the great beauty in a candle. I hope you will now see that the perfection of a process—that is, its utility—is the better point of beauty about it. It is not the best looking thing, but the best acting thing, which is the most advantageous to us. This good-looking candle is a bad burning one. There will be a guttering round about it because of the irregularity of the stream of air and the badness of the cup which is formed thereby. You may see some pretty examples (and I trust you will notice these instances) of the action of the ascending current when you have A little gutter run down the side of a candle, making it thicker there than it is elsewhere. As the candle goes on burning, that keeps its place and forms a little pillar sticking up by the side, because, as it rises higher above the rest of the wax or fuel, the air gets better round it, and it is more cooled and better able to resist the action of the heat at a little distance. Now, the greatest mistakes and faults with regard to candles, as in many other things, often bring with them instruction which we should not receive if they had not occurred. We come here to be philosophers; and I hope you will always remember that whenever a result happens, especially if it be new, you should say, "What is the cause? Why does it occur?" and you will in the course of time find out the reason.
Then, there is another point about these candles which will answer a question,—that is, as to the way in which this fluid gets out of the cup, up the wick, and into the place of combustion. You know that the flames on these burning wicks in candles made of beeswax, stearin, or spermaceti, do not run down to the wax or other matter, and melt it all away, but keep to their own right place. They are fenced off from the fluid below, and do not encroach on the cup at the sides. I cannot imagine a more beautiful example than the condition of adjustment under which a candle makes one part subserve to the other to the very end of its action. A combustible thing like that, burning away gradually, never being intruded upon by the flame, is a very beautiful sight; especially when you come to learn what a vigorous thing flame is—what power it has of destroying the wax itself when it gets hold of it, and of disturbing its proper form if it come only too near.
But how does the flame get hold of the fuel? There is a beautiful point about that—capillary attraction. "Capillary attraction!" you say,—"the attraction of hairs." Well, never mind the name: it was given in old times, before we had a good understanding of what the real power was. It is by what is called capillary attraction that the fuel is conveyed to the part where combustion goes on, and is deposited there, not in a careless way, but very beautifully in the very midst of the centre of action which takes place around it. Now, I am going to give you one or two instances of capillary attraction. It is that kind of action or attraction which makes two things that do not dissolve in each other still hold together. When you wash your hands, you wet them thoroughly; you take a little soap to make the adhesion better, and you find your hand remains wet. This is by that kind of attraction of which I am about to speak. And, what is more, if your hands are not soiled (as they almost always are by the usages of life), if you put your finger into a little warm water, the water will creep a little way up the finger, though you may not stop to examine it. I have here a substance which is rather porous—a column of salt—and I will pour into the plate at the bottom, not water, as it appears, but a saturated solution of salt which cannot absorb more; so that the action which you see will not be due to its dissolving anything. We may consider the plate to be the candle, and the salt the wick, and this solution the melted tallow. (I have coloured the fluid, that you may see the action better.) You observe that, now I pour in the fluid, it rises and gradually creeps up the salt higher and higher; and provided the column does not tumble over, it will go to the top.
If this blue solution were combustible, and we were to place a wick at the top of the salt, it would burn as it entered into the wick. It is a most curious thing to see this kind of action taking place, and to observe how singular some of the circumstances are about it. When you wash your hands, you take a towel to wipe off the water; and it is by that kind of wetting, or that kind of attraction which makes the towel become wet with water, that the wick is made wet with the tallow. I have known some careless boys and girls (indeed, I have known it happen to careful people as well) who, having washed their hands and wiped them with a towel, have thrown the towel over the side of the basin, and before long it has drawn all the water out of the basin and conveyed it to the floor, because it happened to be thrown over the side in such a way as to serve the purpose of a syphon. That you may the better see the way in which the substances act one upon another, I have here a vessel made of wire gauze filled with water, and you may compare it in its action to the cotton in one respect, or to a piece of calico in the other. In fact, wicks are sometimes made of a kind of wire gauze. You will observe that this vessel is a porous thing; for if I pour a little water on to the top, it will run out at the bottom. You would be puzzled for a good while if I asked you what the state of this vessel is, what is inside it, and why it is there? The vessel is full of water, and yet you see the water goes in and runs out as if it were empty. In order to prove this to you, I have only to empty it. The reason is this,—the wire, being once wetted, remains wet; the meshes are so small that the fluid is attracted so strongly from the one side to the other, as to remain in the vessel although it is porous. In like manner the particles of melted tallow ascend the cotton and get to the top; other particles then follow by their mutual attraction for each other, and as they reach the flame they are gradually burned.
Here is another application of the same principle. You see this bit of cane. I have seen boys about the streets, who are very anxious to appear like men, take a piece of cane, and light it and smoke it, as an imitation of a cigar. They are enabled to do so by the permeability of the cane in one direction, and by its capillarity. If I place this piece of cane on a plate containing some camphin (which is very much like paraffin in its general character), exactly in the same manner as the blue fluid rose through the salt will this fluid rise through the piece of cane. There being no pores at the side, the fluid cannot go in that direction, but must pass through its length. Already the fluid is at the top of the cane: now I can light it and make it serve as a candle. The fluid has risen by the capillary attraction of the piece of cane, just as it does through the cotton in the candle.
Now, the only reason why the candle does not burn all down the side of the wick is, that the melted tallow extinguishes the flame. You know that a candle, if turned upside down, so as to allow the fuel to run upon the wick, will be put out. The reason is, that the flame has not had time to make the fuel hot enough to burn, as it does above, where it is carried in small quantities into the wick, and has all the effect of the heat exercised upon it.
There is another condition which you must learn as regards the candle, without which you would not be able fully to understand the philosophy of it, and that is the vaporous condition of the fuel. In order that you may understand that, let me shew you a very pretty, but very common-place experiment. If you blow a candle out cleverly, you will see the vapour rise from it. You have, I know, often smelt the vapour of a blown-out candle—and a very bad smell it is; but if you blow it out cleverly, you will be able to see pretty well the vapour into which this solid matter is transformed. I will blow out one of these candles in such a way as not to disturb the air around it, by the continuing action of my breath; and now, if I hold a lighted taper two or three inches from the wick, you will observe a train of fire going through the air till it reaches the candle. I am obliged to be quick and ready, because, if I allow the vapour time to cool, it becomes condensed into a liquid or solid, or the stream of combustible matter gets disturbed.
Now, as to the shape or form of the flame. It concerns us much to know about the condition which the matter of the candle finally assumes at the top of the wick—where you have such beauty and brightness as nothing but combustion or flame can produce.
You have the glittering beauty of gold and silver, and the still higher lustre of jewels, like the ruby and diamond; but none of these rival the brilliancy and beauty of flame. What diamond can shine like flame? It owes its lustre at night-time to the very flame shining upon it. The flame shines in darkness, but the light which the diamond has is as nothing until the flame shine upon it, when it is brilliant again. The candle alone shines by itself, and for itself, or for those who have arranged the materials. Now, let us look a little at the form of the flame as you see it under the glass shade. It is steady and equal; and its general form is that which is represented in the diagram, varying with atmospheric disturbances, and also varying according to the size of the candle. It is a bright oblong—brighter at the top than towards the bottom—with the wick in the middle, and besides the wick in the middle, certain darker parts towards the bottom, where the ignition is not so perfect as in the part above.
I have a drawing here, sketched many years ago by Hooker, when he made his investigations. It is the drawing of the flame of a lamp, but it will apply to the flame of a candle. The cup of the candle is the vessel or lamp, the melted spermaceti is the oil, and the wick is common to both. Upon that he sets this little flame, and then he represents what is true—a certain quantity of matter rising about it which you do not see, and which, if you have not been here before, or are not familiar with the subject, you will not know of. He has here represented the parts of the surrounding atmosphere that are very essential to the flame, and that are always present with it. There is a current formed, which draws the flame out—for the flame which you see is really drawn out by the current, and drawn upward to a great height—just as Hooker has here shewn you by that prolongation of the current in the diagram. You may see this by taking a lighted candle, and putting it in the sun so as to get its shadow thrown on a piece of paper. How remarkable it is that that thing which is light enough to produce shadows of other objects, can be made to throw its own shadow on a piece of white paper or card, so that you can actually see streaming round the flame something which is not part of the flame, but is ascending and drawing the flame upwards. Now, I am going to imitate the sunlight, by applying the voltaic battery to the electric lamp. You now see our sun, and its great luminosity; and by placing a candle between it and the screen, we get the shadow of the flame.
You observe the shadow of the candle and of the wick; then there is a darkish part, as represented in the diagram, and then a part which is more distinct. Curiously enough, however, what we see in the shadow as the darkest part of the flame is, in reality, the brightest part; and here you see streaming upwards the ascending current of hot air, as shewn by Hooker, which draws out the flame, supplies it with air, and cools the sides of the cup of melted fuel.
I can give you here a little further illustration, for the purpose of shewing you how flame goes up or down; according to the current. I have here a flame—it is not a candle flame—but you can, no doubt, by this time, generalise enough to be able to compare one thing with another. What I am about to do is to change the ascending current that takes the flame upwards into a descending current. This I can easily do by the little apparatus you see before me. The flame, as I have said, is not a candle flame, but it is produced by alcohol, so that it shall not smoke too much. I will also colour the flame with another substance, so that you may trace its course; for with the spirit alone you could hardly see well enough to have the opportunity of tracing its direction. By lighting this spirit-of-wine, we have then a flame produced; and you observe that when held in the air, it naturally goes upwards.
You understand now easily enough why flames go up under ordinary circumstances—it is because of the draught of air by which the combustion is formed. But now, by blowing the flame down, you see I am enabled to make it go downwards into this little chimney—the direction of the current being changed. Before we have concluded this course of lectures, we shall shew you a lamp in which the flame goes up and the smoke goes down, or the flame goes down and the smoke goes up. You see, then, that we have the power in this way of varying the flame in different directions.
There are now some other points that I must bring before you. Many of the flames you see here vary very much in their shape by the currents of air blowing around them in different directions; but we can, if we like, make flames so that they will look like fixtures, and we can photograph them—indeed, we have to photograph them—so that they become fixed to us, if we wish to find out everything concerning them. That, however, is not the only thing I wish to mention. If I take a flame sufficiently large, it does not keep that homogeneous, that uniform condition of shape, but it breaks out with a power of life which is quite wonderful. I am about to use another kind of fuel, but one which is truly and fairly a representative of the wax or tallow of a candle. I have here a large ball of cotton, which will serve as a wick. And, now that I have immersed it in spirit and applied a light to it, in what way does it differ from an ordinary candle? Why, it differs very much in one respect, that we have a vivacity and power about it, a beauty and a life entirely different from the light presented by a candle. You see those fine tongues of flame rising up. You have the same general disposition of the mass of the flame from below upwards; but, in addition to that, you have this remarkable breaking out into tongues which you do not perceive in the case of a candle. Now, why is this? I must explain it to you, because when you understand that perfectly, you will be able to follow me better in what I have to say hereafter. I suppose some here will have made for themselves the experiment I am going to shew you. Am I right in supposing that anybody here has played at snapdragon? I do not know a more beautiful illustration of the philosophy of flame, as to a certain part of its history, than the game of snapdragon. First, here is the dish; and let me say, that when you play snapdragon properly, you ought to have the dish well-warmed; you ought also to have warm plums and warm brandy, which, however, I have not got. When you have put the spirit into the dish, you have the cup and the fuel; and are not the raisins acting like the wicks? I now throw the plums into the dish, and light the spirit, and you see those beautiful tongues of flame that I refer to. You have the air creeping in over the edge of the dish forming these tongues. Why? Because, through the force of the current and the irregularity of the action of the flame, it cannot flow in one uniform stream. The air flows in so irregularly that you have what would otherwise be a single image, broken up into a variety of forms, and each of these little tongues has an independent existence of its own. Indeed, I might say, you have here a multitude of independent candles. You must not imagine, because you see these tongues all at once, that the flame is of this particular shape. A flame of that shape is never so at any one time. Never is a body of flame, like that which you just saw rising from the ball, of the shape it appears to you. It consists of a multitude of different shapes, succeeding each other so fast that the eye is only able to take cognisance of them all at once. In former times, I purposely analysed a flame of that general character, and the diagram shews you the different parts of which it is composed. They do not occur all at once: it is only because we see these shapes in such rapid succession, that they seem to us to exist all at one time.
It is too bad that we have not got further than my game of snapdragon; but we must not, under any circumstances, keep you beyond your time. It will be a lesson to me in future to hold you more strictly to the philosophy of the thing, than to take up your time so much with these illustrations.
A CANDLE: BRIGHTNESS OF THE FLAME—AIR NECESSARY FOR COMBUSTION—PRODUCTION OF WATER.
We were occupied the last time we met in considering the general character and arrangement as regards the fluid portion of a candle, and the way in which that fluid got into the place of combustion. You see, when we have a candle burning fairly in a regular, steady atmosphere, it will have a shape something like the one shewn in the diagram, and will look pretty uniform, although very curious in its character. And now, I have to ask your attention to the means by which we are enabled to ascertain what happens in any particular part of the flame—why it happens, what it does in happening, and where, after all, the whole candle goes to: because, as you know very well, a candle being brought before us and burned, disappears, if burned properly, without the least trace of dirt in the candlestick—and this is a very curious circumstance. In order, then, to examine this candle carefully, I have arranged certain apparatus, the use of which you will see as I go on. Here is a candle: I am about to put the end of this glass tube into the middle of the flame—into that part which old Hooker has represented in the diagram as being rather dark, and which you can see at any time, if you will look at a candle carefully, without blowing it about. We will examine this dark part first.
Now, I take this bent glass tube, and introduce one end into that part of the flame, and you see at once that something is coming from the flame, out at the other end of the tube; and if I put a flask there, and leave it for a little while, you will see that something from the middle part of the flame is gradually drawn out, and goes through the tube and into that flask, and there behaves very differently from what it does in the open air. It not only escapes from the end of the tube, but falls down to the bottom of the flask like a heavy substance, as indeed it is. We find that this is the wax of the candle made into a vaporous fluid—not a gas. (You must learn the difference between a gas and a vapour: a gas remains permanent, a vapour is something that will condense.) If you blow out a candle, you perceive a very nasty smell, resulting from the condensation of this vapour. That is very different from what you have outside the flame; and, in order to make that more clear to you, I am about to produce and set fire to a larger portion of this vapour—for what we have in the small way in a candle, to understand thoroughly, we must, as philosophers, produce in a larger way, if needful, that we may examine the different parts. And now Mr. Anderson will give me a source of heat, and I am about to shew you what that vapour is. Here is some wax in a glass flask, and I am going to make it hot, as the inside of that candle-flame is hot, and the matter about the wick is hot. [The Lecturer placed some wax in a glass flask, and heated it over a lamp.] Now, I dare say that is hot enough for me. You see that the wax I put in it has become fluid, and there is a little smoke coming from it. We shall very soon have the vapour rising up. I will make it still hotter, and now we get more of it, so that I can actually pour the vapour out of the flask into that basin, and set it on fire there. This, then, is exactly the same kind of vapour as we have in the middle of the candle; and that you may be sure this is the case, let us try whether we have not got here, in this flask, a real combustible vapour out of the middle of the candle. [Taking the flask into which the tube from the candle proceeded, and introducing a lighted taper.] See how it burns. Now, this is the vapour from the middle of the candle, produced by its own heat; and that is one of the first things you have to consider with respect to the progress of the wax in the course of its combustion, and as regards the changes it undergoes. I will arrange another tube carefully in the flame, and I should not wonder if we were able, by a little care, to get that vapour to pass through the tube to the other extremity, where we will light it, and obtain absolutely the flame of the candle at a place distant from it. Now, look at that. Is not that a very pretty experiment? Talk about laying on gas—why, we can actually lay on a candle! And you see from this that there are clearly two different kinds of action—one the production of the vapour, and the other the combustion of it—both of which take place in particular parts of the candle.
I shall get no vapour from that part which is already burnt. If I raise the tube (fig. 7) to the upper part of the flame, so soon as the vapour has been swept out, what comes away will be no longer combustible: It is already burned. How burned? Why, burned thus:—In the middle of the flame, where the wick is, there is this combustible vapour; on the outside of the flame is the air which we shall find necessary for the burning of the candle; between the two, intense chemical action takes place, whereby the air and the fuel act upon each other, and at the very same time that we obtain light the vapour inside is destroyed. If you examine where the heat of a candle is, you will find it very curiously arranged. Suppose I take this candle, and hold a piece of paper close upon the flame, where is the heat of that flame? Do you not see that it is not in the inside? It is in a ring, exactly in the place where I told you the chemical action was; and even in my irregular mode of making the experiment, if there is not too much disturbance, there will always be a ring. This is a good experiment for you to make at home. Take a strip of paper, have the air in the room quiet, and put the piece of paper right across the middle of the flame (I must not talk while I make the experiment), and you will find that it is burnt in two places, and that it is not burnt, or very little so, in the middle; and when you have tried the experiment once or twice, so as to make it nicely, you will be very interested to see where the heat is, and to find that it is where the air and the fuel come together.
This is most important for us as we proceed with our subject. Air is absolutely necessary for combustion; and, what is more, I must have you understand that fresh air is necessary, or else we should be imperfect in our reasoning and our experiments. Here is a jar of air. I place it over a candle, and it burns very nicely in it at first, shewing that what I have said about it is true; but there will soon be a change. See how the flame is drawing upwards, presently fading, and at last going out. And going out, why? Not because it wants air merely, for the jar is as full now as it was before; but it wants pure, fresh air. The jar is full of air, partly changed, partly not changed; but it does not contain sufficient of the fresh air which is necessary for the combustion of a candle. These are all points which we, as young chemists, have to gather up; and if we look a little more closely into this kind of action, we shall find certain steps of reasoning extremely interesting. For instance, here is the oil-lamp I shewed you—an excellent lamp for our experiments—the old Argand lamp. I now make it like a candle [obstructing the passage of air into the centre of the flame]; there is the cotton; there is the oil rising up it; and there is the conical flame. It burns poorly, because there is a partial restraint of air. I have allowed no air to get to it, save round the outside of the flame, and it does not burn well. I cannot admit more air from the outside, because the wick is large; but if, as Argand did so cleverly, I open a passage to the middle of the flame, and so let air come in there, you will see how much more beautifully it burns. If I shut the air off, look how it smokes; and why? We have now some very interesting points to study. We have the case of the combustion of a candle; we have the case of a candle being put out by the want of air; and we have now the case of imperfect combustion; and this is to us so interesting, that I want you to understand it as thoroughly as you do the case of a candle burning in its best possible manner. I will now make a great flame, because we need the largest possible illustrations. Here is a larger wick [burning turpentine on a ball of cotton]. All these things are the same as candles, after all. If we have larger wicks, we must have a larger supply of air, or we shall have less perfect combustion. Look now at this black substance going up into the atmosphere; there is a regular stream of it. I have provided means to carry off the imperfectly burned part, lest it should annoy you. Look at the soots that fly off from the flame: see what an imperfect combustion it is, because it cannot get enough air. What, then, is happening? Why, certain things which are necessary to the combustion of a candle are absent, and very bad results are accordingly produced; but we see what happens to a candle when it is burnt in a pure and proper state of air. At the time when I shewed you this charring by the ring of flame on the one side of the paper, I might have also shewn you, by turning to the other side, that the burning of a candle produces the same kind of soot—charcoal or carbon.
But, before I shew that, let me explain to you—as it is quite necessary for our purpose—that, though I take a candle and give you, as the general result, its combustion in the form of a flame, we must see whether combustion is always in this condition, or whether there are other conditions of flame; and we shall soon discover that there are, and that they are most important to us. I think, perhaps, the best illustration of such a point to us, as juveniles, is to shew the result of strong contrast. Here is a little gunpowder. You know that gunpowder burns with flame—we may fairly call it flame. It contains carbon and other materials, which altogether cause it to burn with a flame. And here is some pulverised iron, or iron filings. Now, I purpose burning these two things together. I have a little mortar in which I will mix them. (Before I go into these experiments, let me hope that none of you, by trying to repeat them, for fun's sake, will do any harm. These things may all be very properly used if you take care; but without that, much mischief will be done.) Well, then, here is a little gunpowder, which I put at the bottom of that little wooden vessel, and mix the iron filings up with it, my object being to make the gunpowder set fire to the filings and burn them in the air, and thereby shew the difference between substances burning with flame and not with flame. Here is the mixture; and when I set fire to it, you must watch the combustion, and you will see that it is of two kinds. You will see the gunpowder burning with a flame, and the filings thrown up. You will see them burning too, but without the production of flame. They will each burn separately. [The Lecturer then ignited the mixture.] There is the gunpowder, which burns with a flame; and there are the filings—they burn with a different kind of combustion. You see, then, these two great distinctions; and upon these differences depend all the utility and all the beauty of flame which we use for the purpose of giving out light. When we use oil, or gas, or candle, for the purpose of illumination, their fitness all depends upon these different kinds of combustion.
There are such curious conditions of flame, that it requires some cleverness and nicety of discrimination to distinguish the kinds of combustion one from another. For instance, here is a powder which is very combustible, consisting, as you see, of separate little particles. It is called lycopodium, and each of these particles can produce a vapour, and produce its own flame; but, to see them burning, you would imagine it was all one flame. I will now set fire to a quantity, and you will see the effect. We saw a cloud of flame, apparently in one body; but that rushing noise [referring to the sound produced by the burning] was a proof that the combustion was not a continuous or regular one. This is the lightning of the pantomimes, and a very good imitation. [The experiment was twice repeated by blowing lycopodium from a glass tube through a spirit-flame.] This is not an example of combustion like that of the filings I have been speaking of, to which we must now return.
Suppose I take a candle, and examine that part of it which appears brightest to our eyes. Why, there I get these black particles, which already you have seen many times evolved from the flame, and which I am now about to evolve in a different way. I will take this candle and clear away the gutterage, which occurs by reason of the currents of air; and if I now arrange a glass tube so as just to dip into this luminous part, as in our first experiment, only higher, you see the result. In place of having the same white vapour that you had before, you will now have a black vapour. There it goes, as black as ink. It is certainly very different from the white vapour; and when we put a light to it, we shall find that it does not burn, but that it puts the light out. Well, these particles, as I said before, are just the smoke of the candle; and this brings to mind that old employment which Dean Swift recommended to servants for their amusement, namely, writing on the ceiling of a room with a candle. But what is that black substance? Why, it is the same carbon which exists in the candle. How comes it out of the candle? It evidently existed in the candle, or else we should not have had it here. And now I want you to follow me in this explanation. You would hardly think that all those substances which fly about London, in the form of soots and blacks, are the very beauty and life of the flame, and which are burned in it as those iron filings were burned here. Here is a piece of wire gauze, which will not let the flame go through it; and I think you will see, almost immediately, that when I bring it low enough to touch that part of the flame which is otherwise so bright, that it quells and quenches it at once, and allows a volume of smoke to rise up.
I want you now to follow me in this point,—that whenever a substance burns, as the iron filings burnt in the flame of gunpowder, without assuming the vaporous state (whether it becomes liquid or remains solid), it becomes exceedingly luminous. I have here taken three or four examples apart from the candle, on purpose to illustrate this point to you; because what I have to say is applicable to all substances, whether they burn or whether they do not burn,—that they are exceedingly bright if they retain their solid state, and that it is to this presence of solid particles in the candle-flame that it owes its brilliancy.
Here is a platinum-wire, a body which does not change by heat. If I heat it in this flame, see how exceedingly luminous it becomes. I will make the flame dim, for the purpose of giving a little light only, and yet you will see that the heat which it can give to that platinum-wire, though far less than the heat it has itself, is able to raise the platinum-wire to a far higher state of effulgence. This flame has carbon in it; but I will take one that has no carbon in it. There is a material, a kind of fuel—a vapour, or gas, whichever you like to call it—in that vessel, and it has no solid particles in it; so I take that because it is an example of flame itself burning without any solid matter whatever; and if I now put this solid substance in it, you see what an intense heat it has, and how brightly it causes the solid body to glow. This is the pipe through which we convey this particular gas, which we call hydrogen, and which you shall know all about next time we meet. And here is a substance called oxygen, by means of which this hydrogen can burn; and although we produce, by their mixture, far greater heat than you can obtain from the candle, yet there is very little light. If, however, I take a solid substance, and put that into it, we produce an intense light If I take a piece of lime, a substance which will not burn, and which will not vaporise by the heat (and because it does not vaporise, remains solid, and remains heated), you will soon observe what happens as to its glowing. I have here a most intense heat, produced by the burning of hydrogen in contact with the oxygen; but there is as yet very little light—not for want of heat, but for want of particles which can retain their solid state; but when I hold this piece of lime in the flame of the hydrogen as it burns in the oxygen, see how it glows! This is the glorious lime-light, which rivals the voltaic-light, and which is almost equal to sunlight. I have here a piece of carbon or charcoal, which will burn and give us light exactly in the same manner as if it were burnt as part of a candle. The heat that is in the flame of a candle decomposes the vapour of the wax, and sets free the carbon particles—they rise up heated and glowing as this now glows, and then enter into the air. But the particles when burnt never pass off from a candle in the form of carbon. They go off into the air as a perfectly invisible substance, about which we shall know hereafter.
Is it not beautiful to think that such a process is going on, and that such a dirty thing as charcoal can become so incandescent? You see it comes to this—that all bright flames contain these solid particles; all things that burn and produce solid particles, either during the time they are burning, as in the candle, or immediately after being burnt, as in the case of the gunpowder and iron-filings,—all these things give us this glorious and beautiful light.
I will give you a few illustrations. Here is a piece of phosphorus, which burns with a bright flame. Very well; we may now conclude that phosphorus will produce, either at the moment that it is burning or afterwards, these solid particles. Here is the phosphorus lighted, and I cover it over with this glass for the purpose of keeping in what is produced. What is all that smoke? That smoke consists of those very particles which are produced by the combustion of the phosphorus. Here, again, are two substances. This is chlorate of potassa, and this other sulphuret of antimony. I shall mix these together a little, and then they may be burnt in many ways. I shall touch them with a drop of sulphuric acid, for the purpose of giving you an illustration of chemical action, and they will instantly burn. [The Lecturer then ignited the mixture by means of sulphuric acid.] Now, from the appearance of things, you can judge for yourselves whether they produce solid matter in burning. I have given you the train of reasoning which will enable you to say whether they do or do not; for what is this bright flame but the solid particles passing off?
Mr. Anderson has in the furnace a very hot crucible,—I am about to throw into it some zinc filings, and they will burn with a flame like gunpowder. I make this experiment because you can make it well at home. Now, I want you to see what will be the result of the combustion of this zinc. Here it is burning—burning beautifully like a candle, I may say. But what is all that smoke, and what are those little clouds of wool which will come to you if you cannot come to them, and make themselves sensible to you in the form of the old philosophic wool, as it was called? We shall have left in that crucible, also, a quantity of this woolly matter. But I will take a piece of this same zinc and make an experiment a little more closely at home, as it were. You will have here the same thing happening. Here is the piece of zinc, there [pointing to a jet of hydrogen] is the furnace, and we will set to work and try and burn the metal. It glows, you see: there is the combustion, and there is the white substance into which it burns. And so, if I take that flame of hydrogen as the representative of a candle, and shew you a substance like zinc burning in the flame, you will see that it was merely during the action of combustion that this substance glowed—while it was kept hot; and if I take a flame of hydrogen, and put this white substance from the zinc into it, look how beautifully it glows, and just because it is a solid substance.
I will now take such a flame as I had a moment since, and set free from it the particles of carbon. Here is some camphine, which will burn with a smoke; but if I send these particles of smoke through this pipe into the hydrogen flame, you will see they will burn and become luminous, because we heat them a second time. There they are. Those are the particles of carbon re-ignited a second time. They are those particles which you can easily see by holding a piece of paper behind them, and which, whilst they are in the flame, are ignited by the heat produced, and, when so ignited, produce this brightness. When the particles are not separated, you get no brightness. The flame of coal-gas owes its brightness to the separation, during combustion, of these particles of carbon, which are equally in that as in a candle. I can very quickly alter that arrangement. Here, for instance, is a bright flame of gas. Supposing I add so much air to the flame as to cause it all to burn before those particles are set free, I shall not have this brightness; and I can do that in this way:—If I place over the jet this wire-gauze cap, as you see, and then light the gas over it, it burns with a non-luminous flame, owing to its having plenty of air mixed with it before it burns; and if I raise the gauze, you see it does not burn below. There is plenty of carbon in the gas; but, because the atmosphere can get to it, and mix with it before it burns, you see how pale and blue the flame is. And if I blow upon a bright gas-flame, so as to consume all this carbon before it gets heated to the glowing point, it will also burn blue: [The Lecturer illustrated his remarks by blowing on the gas-light.] The only reason why I have not the same bright light when I thus blow upon the flame is, that the carbon meets with sufficient air to burn it before it gets separated in the flame in a free state. The difference is solely due to the solid particles not being separated before the gas is burnt.
You observe that there are certain products as the result of the combustion of a candle, and that of these products one portion may be considered as charcoal, or soot; that charcoal, when afterwards burnt, produces some other product; and it concerns us very much now to ascertain what that other product is. We shewed that something was going away; and I want you now to understand how much is going up into the air; and for that purpose we will have combustion on a little larger scale. From that candle ascends heated air, and two or three experiments will shew you the ascending current; but, in order to give you a notion of the quantity of matter which ascends in this way, I will make an experiment by which I shall try to imprison some of the products of this combustion. For this purpose I have here what boys call a fire-balloon. I use this fire-balloon merely as a sort of measure of the result of the combustion we are considering; and I am about to make a flame in such an easy and simple manner as shall best serve my present purpose. This plate shall be the "cup," we will so say, of the candle; this spirit shall be our fuel; and I am about to place this chimney over it, because it is better for me to do so than to let things proceed at random.
Mr. Anderson will now light the fuel, and here at the top we shall get the results of the combustion. What we get at the top of that tube is exactly the same, generally speaking, as you get from the combustion of a candle; but we do not get a luminous flame here, because we use a substance which is feeble in carbon. I am about to put this balloon—not into action, because that is not my object—but to shew you the effect which results from the action of those products which arise from the candle, as they arise here from the furnace. [The balloon was held over the chimney, when it immediately commenced to fill.] You see how it is disposed to ascend; but we must not let it up, because it might come in contact with those upper gas-lights, and that would be very inconvenient. [The upper gas-lights were turned out, at the request of the Lecturer, and the balloon was allowed to ascend.] Does not that shew you what a large bulk of matter is being evolved? Now, there is going through this tube [placing a large glass tube over a candle] all the products of that candle, and you will presently see that the tube will become quite opaque. Suppose I take another candle, and place it under a jar, and then put a light on the other side, just to shew you what is going on. You see that the sides of the jar become cloudy, and the light begins to burn feebly. It is the products, you see, which make the light so dim, and this is the same thing which makes the sides of the jar so opaque. If you go home and take a spoon that has been in the cold air, and hold it over a candle—not so as to soot it—you will find that it becomes dim, just as that jar is dim. If you can get a silver dish, or something of that kind, you will make the experiment still better. And now, just to carry your thoughts forward to the time we shall next meet, let me tell you that it is water which causes the dimness; and when we next meet. I will shew you that we can make it, without difficulty, assume the form of a liquid.
PRODUCTS: WATER FROM THE COMBUSTION—NATURE OF WATER—A COMPOUND—HYDROGEN.
I dare say you will remember that when we parted we had just mentioned the word "products" from the candle. For when a candle burns we found we were able, by nice adjustment, to get various products from it. There was one substance which was not obtained when the candle was burning properly, which was charcoal or smoke; and there was some other substance that went upwards from the flame which did not appear as smoke, but took some other form, and made part of that general current which, ascending from the candle upwards, becomes invisible, and escapes. There were also other products to mention. You remember that in that rising current having its origin at the candle, we found that one part was condensable against a cold spoon, or against a clean plate, or any other cold thing, and another part was incondensable.
We will first take the condensable part, and examine it; and, strange to say, we find that that part of the product is just water—nothing but water. On the last occasion I spoke of it incidentally, merely saying that water was produced among the condensable products of the candle; but to-day I wish to draw your attention to water, that we may examine it carefully, especially in relation to this subject, and also with respect to its general existence on the surface of the globe.
Now, having previously arranged an experiment for the purpose of condensing water from the products of the candle, my next point will be to shew you this water; and perhaps one of the best means that I can adopt for shewing its presence to so many at once, is to exhibit a very visible action of water, and then to apply that test to what is collected as a drop at the bottom of that vessel. I have here a chemical substance, discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy, which has a very energetic action upon water, which I shall use as a test of the presence of water. If I take a little piece of it—it is called potassium, as coming from potash,—if I take a little piece of it, and throw it into that basin, you see how it shews the presence of water by lighting up and floating about, burning with a violent flame. I am now going to take away the candle which has been burning beneath the vessel containing ice and salt, and you see a drop of water—a condensed product of the candle—hanging from under the surface of the dish.
I will shew you that potassium has the same action upon it as upon the water in that basin in the experiment we have just tried. See, it takes fire, and burns in just the same manner. I will take another drop upon this glass slab, and when I put the potassium on to it, you see at once, from its taking fire, that there is water present. Now, that water was produced by the candle. In the same manner, if I put this spirit-lamp under that jar, you will soon see the latter become damp, from the dew which is deposited upon it—that dew being the result of combustion; and I have no doubt you will shortly see by the drops of water which fall upon the paper below, that there is a good deal of water produced from the combustion of the lamp. I will let it remain, and you can afterwards see how much water has been collected. So, if I take a gas-lamp, and put any cooling arrangement over it, I shall get water—water being likewise produced from the combustion of gas. Here, in this bottle, is a quantity of water—perfectly pure, distilled water, produced from the combustion of a gas-lamp—in no point different from the water that you distil from the river, or ocean, or spring, but exactly the same thing. Water is one individual thing—it never changes. We can add to it by careful adjustment, for a little while, or we can take it apart, and get other things from it; but water, as water, remains always the same, either in a solid, liquid, or fluid state. Here, again [holding another bottle], is some water produced by the combustion of an oil-lamp. A pint of oil, when burnt fairly and properly, produces rather more than a pint of water. Here, again, is some water, produced by a rather long experiment from a wax candle. And so we can go on with almost all combustible substances, and find that if they burn with a flame, as a candle, they produce water. You may make these experiments yourselves. The head of a poker is a very good thing to try with, and if it remains cold long enough over the candle, you may get water condensed in drops on it; or a spoon or ladle, or anything else may be used, provided it be clean, and can carry off the heat, and so condense the water.
And now—to go into the history of this wonderful production of water from combustibles, and by combustion—I must first of all tell you that this water may exist in different conditions; and although you may now be acquainted with all its forms, they still require us to give a little attention to them for the present, so that we may perceive how the water, whilst it goes through its Protean changes, is entirely and absolutely the same thing, whether it is produced from a candle, by combustion, or from the rivers or ocean.
First of all, water, when at the coldest, is ice. Now, we philosophers—-I hope that I may class you and myself together in this case—speak of water as water, whether it be in its solid, or liquid, or gaseous state,—we speak of it chemically as water. Water is a thing compounded of two substances, one of which we have derived from the candle, and the other we shall find elsewhere. Water may occur as ice; and you have had most excellent opportunities lately of seeing this. Ice changes back into water—for we had on our last Sabbath a strong instance of this change, by the sad catastrophe which occurred in our own house, as well as in the houses of many of our friends,—ice changes back into water when the temperature is raised: water also changes into steam when it is warmed enough. The water which we have here before us is in its densest state, and although it changes in weight, in condition, in form, and in many other qualities, it still is water; and whether we alter it into ice by cooling, or whether we change it into steam by heat, it increases in volume,—in the one case very strangely and powerfully, and in the other case very largely and wonderfully. For instance, I will now take this tin cylinder, and pour a little water into it; and seeing how much water I pour in, you may easily estimate for yourselves how high it will rise in the vessel: it will cover the bottom about two inches. I am now about to convert the water into steam, for the purpose of shewing to you the different volumes which water occupies in its different states of water and steam.
Let us now take the case of water changing into ice: we can effect that by cooling it in a mixture of salt and pounded ice; and I shall do so to shew you the expansion of water into a thing of larger bulk when it is so changed. These bottles [holding one] are made of strong cast iron, very strong and very thick—I suppose they are the third of an inch in thickness; they are very carefully filled with water, so as to exclude all air, and then they are screwed down tight. We shall see that when we freeze the water in these iron vessels, they will not be able to hold the ice, and the expansion within them will break them in pieces as these [pointing to some fragments] are broken, which have been bottles of exactly the same kind. I am about to put these two bottles into that mixture of ice and salt, for the purpose of shewing that when water becomes ice, it changes in volume in this extraordinary way.
In the mean time look at the change which has taken place in the water to which we have applied heat—it is losing its fluid state. You may tell this by two or three circumstances. I have covered the mouth of this glass flask, in which water is boiling, with a watch-glass. Do you see what happens? It rattles away like a valve chattering, because the steam rising from the boiling water sends the valve up and down, and forces itself out, and so makes it clatter. You can very easily perceive that the flask is quite full of steam, or else it would not force its way out. You see, also, that the flask contains a substance very much larger than the water, for it fills the whole of the flask over and over again, and there it is blowing away into the air; and yet you cannot observe any great diminution in the bulk of the water, which shews you that its change of bulk is very great when it becomes steam.
I have put our iron bottles containing water into this freezing mixture, that you may see what happens. No communication will take place, you observe, between the water in the bottles and the ice in the outer vessel. But there will be a conveyance of heat from the one to the other; and if we are successful—we are making our experiment in very great haste—I expect you will by-and-by, so soon as the cold has taken possession of the bottles and their contents, hear a pop on the occasion of the bursting of the one bottle or the other; and, when we come to examine the bottles, we shall find their contents masses of ice, partly enclosed by the covering of iron which is too small for them, because the ice is larger in bulk than the water. You know very well that ice floats upon water: if a boy falls through a hole into the water, he tries to get on the ice again to float him up. Why does the ice float?—think of that, and philosophise. Because the ice is larger than the quantity of water which can produce it; and therefore the ice weighs the lighter, and the water is the heavier.
To return now to the action of heat on water. See what a stream of vapour is issuing from this tin vessel! You observe, we must have made it quite full of steam to have it sent out in that great quantity. And now, as we can convert the water into steam by heat, we convert it back into liquid water by the application of cold. And if we take a glass, or any other cold thing, and hold it over this steam, see how soon it gets damp with water; it will condense it until the glass is warm—it condenses the water which is now running down the sides of it. I have here another experiment to shew the condensation of water from a vaporous state back into a liquid state, in the same way as the vapour, one of the products of the candle, was condensed against the bottom of the dish, and obtained in the form of water; and to shew you how truly and thoroughly these changes take place, I will take this tin flask, which is now full of steam, and close the top. We shall see what takes place when we cause this water or steam to return back to the fluid state by pouring some cold water on the outside. [The Lecturer poured the cold water over the vessel, when it immediately collapsed.] You see what has happened. If I had closed the stopper, and still kept the heat applied to it, it would have burst the vessel; yet, when the steam returns to the state of water, the vessel collapses, there being a vacuum produced inside by the condensation of the steam. I shew you these experiments for the purpose of pointing out that in all these occurrences there is nothing that changes the water into any other thing—it still remains water; and so the vessel is obliged to give way, and is crushed inwards, as in the other case, by the further application of heat, it would have been blown outwards.
And what do you think the bulk of that water is when it assumes the vaporous condition? You see that cube [pointing to a cubic foot]. There, by its side, is a cubic inch, exactly the same shape as the cubic foot, and that bulk of water [the cubic inch] is sufficient to expand into that bulk [the cubic foot] of steam; and, on the contrary, the application of cold will contract that large quantity of steam into this small quantity of water.
[One of the iron bottles burst at that moment.] Ah! There is one of our bottles burst, and here you see is a crack down one side an eighth of an inch in width. [The other now exploded, sending the freezing mixture in all directions.] This other bottle is also broken; although the iron was nearly half-an-inch thick, the ice has burst it asunder. These changes always take place in water: they do not require to be always produced by artificial means,—we only use them here because we want to produce a small winter round that little bottle, instead of a long and severe one. But if you go to Canada, or to the North, you will find the temperature there out of doors will do the same thing as has been done here by the freezing mixture.
To return to our quiet philosophy. We shall not in future be deceived, therefore, by any changes that are produced in water. Water is the same everywhere, whether produced from the ocean or from the flame of the candle. Where, then, is this water which we get from a candle? I must anticipate a little, and tell you. It evidently comes, as to part of it, from the candle; but is it within the candle beforehand? No. It is not in the candle; and it is not in the air round about the candle which is necessary for its combustion. It is neither in one nor the other, but it comes from their conjoint action, a part from the candle, a part from the air; and this we have now to trace, so that we may understand thoroughly what is the chemical history of a candle when we have it burning on our table. How shall we get at this? I myself know plenty of ways, but I want you to get at it from the association in your own minds of what I have already told you.
I think you can see a little in this way. We had just now the case of a substance which acted upon the water in the way that Sir Humphrey Davy shewed us, and which I am now going to recall to your minds by making again an experiment upon that dish. It is a thing which we have to handle very carefully, for you see, if I allow a little splash of water to come upon this mass, it sets fire to part of it; and if there were free access of air, it would quickly set fire to the whole. Now, this is a metal—a beautiful and bright metal—which rapidly changes in the air, and, as you know, rapidly changes in water. I will put a piece on the water, and you see it burns beautifully, making a floating lamp, using the water in the place of air. Again, if we take a few iron filings or turnings, and put them in water, we find that they likewise undergo an alteration. They do not change so much as this potassium does, but they change somewhat in the same way; they become rusty, and shew an action upon the water, though in a different degree of intensity to what this beautiful metal does: but they act upon the water in the same manner generally as this potassium. I want you to put these different facts together in your minds. I have another metal here [zinc], and when we examined it with regard to the solid substance produced by its combustion, we had an opportunity of seeing that it burned; and I suppose, if I take a little strip of this zinc and put it over the candle, you will see something half-way, as it were, between the combustion of potassium on the water and the action of iron,—you see there is a sort of combustion. It has burned, leaving a white ash or residuum, and here also we find that the metal has a certain amount of action upon water.
By degrees we have learned how to modify the action of these different substances, and to make them tell us what we want to know. And now, first of all, I take iron. It is a common thing in all chemical reactions, where we get any result of this kind, to find that it is increased by the action of heat; and if we want to examine minutely and carefully the action of bodies one upon another, we often have to refer to the action of heat. You are aware, I believe, that iron-filings burn beautifully in the air; but I am about to shew you an experiment of this kind, because it will impress upon you what I am going to say about iron in its action on water. If I take a flame and make it hollow;—you know why, because I want to get air to it and into it, and therefore I make it hollow—and then take a few iron-filings and drop them into the flame, you see how well they burn. That combustion results from the chemical action which is going on when we ignite those particles. And so we proceed to consider these different effects, and ascertain what iron will do when it meets with water. It will tell us the story so beautifully, so gradually and regularly, that I think it will please you very much.
I have here a furnace with a pipe going through it like an iron gun-barrel, and I have stuffed that barrel full of bright iron-turnings, and placed it across the fire, to be made red-hot. We can either send air through the barrel to come in contact with the iron, or we can send steam from this little boiler at the end of the barrel. Here is a stop-cock which shuts off the steam from the barrel until we wish to admit it. There is some water in these glass jars, which I have coloured blue, so that you may see what happens. Now, you know very well that any steam I might send through that barrel, if it went through into the water, would be condensed; for you have seen that steam cannot retain its gaseous form if it be cooled down.
You saw it here [pointing to the tin flask] crushing itself into a small bulk, and causing the flask holding it to collapse; so that if I were to send steam through that barrel, it would be condensed—supposing the barrel were cold: it is, therefore, heated to perform the experiment I am now about to shew you. I am going to send the steam through the barrel in small quantities; and you shall judge for yourselves, when you see it issue from the other end, whether it still remains steam. Steam is condensible into water, and when you lower the temperature of steam, you convert it back into fluid water; but I have lowered the temperature of the gas which I have collected in this jar, by passing it through water after it has traversed the iron barrel, and still it does not change back into water. I will take another test and apply to this gas. (I hold the jar in an inverted position, or my substance would escape.) If I now apply a light to the mouth of the jar, it ignites with a slight noise. That tells you that it is not steam. Steam puts out a fire—it does not burn; but you saw that what I had in that jar burnt. We may obtain this substance equally from water produced from the candle-flame as from any other source. When it is obtained by the action of the iron upon the aqueous vapour, it leaves the iron in a state very similar to that in which these filings were after they were burnt. It makes the iron heavier than it was before. So long as the iron remains in the tube and is heated, and is cooled again without the access of air or water, it does not change in its weight; but after having had this current of steam passed over it, it then comes out heavier that it was before, having taken something out of the steam, and having allowed something else to pass forth, which we see here. And now, as we have another jar full, I will shew you something most interesting. It is a combustible gas; and I might at once take this jar and set fire to the contents, and shew you that it is combustible; but I intend to shew you more if I can. It is also a very light substance. Steam will condense: this body will rise in the air, and not condense.
Suppose I take another glass jar, empty of all but air: if I examine it with a taper, I shall find that it contains nothing but air. I will now take this jar full of the gas that I am speaking of, and deal with it as though it were a light body. I will hold both upside-down, and turn the one up under the other; and that which did contain the gas procured from the steam, what does it contain now? You will find it now only contains air. But look! Here is the combustible substance [taking the other jar] which I have poured out of the one jar into the other. It still preserves its quality, and condition, and independence, and therefore is the more worthy of our consideration, as belonging to the products of a candle.
Now, this substance which we have just prepared by the action of iron on the steam or water, we can also get by means of those other things which you have already seen act so well upon the water. If I take a piece of potassium, and make the necessary arrangements, it will produce this gas; and if, instead, a piece of zinc, I find, when I come to examine it very carefully, that the main reason why this zinc cannot act upon the water continuously as the other metal does, is because the result of the action of the water envelopes the zinc in a kind of protecting coat. We have learned in consequence, that if we put into our vessel only the zinc and water, they by themselves do not give rise to much action, and we get no result. But suppose I proceed to dissolve off this varnish—this encumbering substance—which I can do by a little acid; the moment I do this, I find the zinc acting upon the water exactly as the iron did, but at the common temperature. The acid in no way is altered, except in its combination with the oxide of zinc, which is produced. I have now poured the acid into the glass, and the effect is as though I were applying heat to cause this boiling up. There is something coming off from the zinc very abundantly, which is not steam. There is a jar full of it; and you will find that I have exactly the same combustible substance remaining in the vessel, when I hold it upside-down, that I produced during the experiment with the iron barrel. This is what we get from water—the same substance which is contained in the candle.
Let us now trace distinctly the connection between these two points. This is hydrogen—a body classed among those things which in Chemistry we call elements, because we can get nothing else out of them. A candle is not an elementary body, because we can get carbon out of it; we can get this hydrogen out of it, or at least out of the water which it supplies. And this gas has been so named hydrogen, because it is that element which, in association with another, generates water. [Footnote: [greek: hudos], "water," and [greek: gennao], "I generate."] Mr. Anderson having now been able to get two or three jars of gas, we shall have a few experiments to make, and I want to shew you the best way of making these experiments. I am not afraid to shew you, for I wish you to make experiments, if you will only make them with care and attention, and the assent of those around you. As we advance in Chemistry, we are obliged to deal with substances which are rather injurious, if in their wrong places—the acids, and heat, and combustible things we use, might do harm if carelessly employed. If you want to make hydrogen, you can make it easily from bits of zinc, and sulphuric or muriatic acid. Here is what in former times was called the "philosopher's candle." It is a little phial with a cork, and a tube or pipe passing through it.
And I am now putting a few little pieces of zinc into it. This little instrument I am going to apply to a useful purpose in our demonstrations—for I want to shew you that you can prepare hydrogen, and make some experiments with it as you please at your own homes. Let me here tell you why I am so careful to fill this phial nearly, and yet not quite full. I do it because the evolved gas, which, as you have seen, is very combustible, is explosive to a considerable extent when mixed with air, and might lead to harm, if you were to apply a light to the end of that pipe before all the air had been swept out of the space above the water. I am now about to pour in the sulphuric acid. I have used very little zinc, and more sulphuric acid and water, because I want to keep it at work for some time. I therefore take care in this way to modify the proportions of the ingredients, so that I may have a regular supply—not too quick, and not too slow. Supposing I now take a glass and put it upside-down over the end of the tube, because the hydrogen is light I expect that it will remain in that vessel a little while. We will now test the contents of our glass to see if there be hydrogen in it. I think I am safe in saying we have caught some [applying a light]. There it is, you see. I will now apply a light to the top of the tube. There is the hydrogen burning. There is our philosophical candle. It is a foolish feeble sort of a flame, you may say; but it is so hot that scarcely any common flame gives out so much heat. It goes on burning regularly, and I am now about to put that flame to burn under a certain arrangement, in order that we may examine its results and make use of the information which we may thereby acquire. Inasmuch as the candle produces water, and this gas comes out of the water, let us see what this gives us by the same process of combustion that the candle went through when it burnt in the atmosphere; and for that purpose I am going to put the lamp under this apparatus, in order to condense whatever may arise from the combustion within it In the course of a short time you will see moisture appearing in the cylinder, and you will get the water running down the side; and the water from this hydrogen flame will have absolutely the same effect upon all our tests, being obtained by the same general process as in the former case. This hydrogen is a very beautiful substance. It is so light that it carries things up: it is far lighter than the atmosphere; and I dare say I can shew you this by an experiment which, if you are very clever, some of you may even have skill enough to repeat. Here is our generator of hydrogen, and here are some soap-suds. I have an india-rubber tube connected with the hydrogen generator, and at the end of the tube is a tobacco-pipe.