Alchemy Essay Research Paper The science by — страница 5
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metals it can be proved by the comparison of the properties of isometric bodies with the properties of metals, in order to discover whether they have any common characteristics. Such experiments, he continued, had been conducted by M. Dumas, with the result the isometric substances were to be found to have equal equivalents, or equivalents which were exact multiples of one another. This characteristic is also a feature of metals. Gold and osmium have identical equivalents, as have platinum and iridium. The equivalent of cobalt is almost the same as that of nickel, and the semi-equivalent of tin is equal to the equivalent of the two preceding metals.M. Dumas. speaking before the British Association, had shown that when three simple bodies displayed great analogies in their properties, such as chlorine, bromide, and iodine, barium, strontium, and calcium, the chemical equivalent of the intermediate body is represented by the arithmetical mean between the equivalents of the other two. Such a statement well showed the isomerism of elementary substances, and proved that metals, however dissimilar in outward appearance, were composed of the same matter differently arranged and proportioned. This theory successfully demolishes the difficulties in the way of transmutation. Again, Dr. Prout says that the chemical equivalents of nearly all elemental substances are the multiples of one among them. Thus, if the equivalent of hydrogen be taken for the unit, the equivalent of every other substance will be an exact multiple of it – carbon will be represented by six, axote by fourteen, oxygen by sixteen, zink by thirty-two. But, pointed out M. Figuier’s friend, if the molecular masses in compound substances have so simple a connection, does it not go to prove the all natural bodies are formed of one principle, differently arranged and condensed to produce all known compounds?If transmutation is thus theoretically possible, it only remains to show by practical experiment that it is strictly in accordance with chemical laws, and by no means inclines to the supernatural. At this juncture the young alchemist proceeded to liken the action of the Philosopher’s Stone on metals to that of a ferment on organic matter. When metals are melted and brought to red heat, a molecular change may be produced analogous to fermentation. Just as sugar, under the influence of a ferment, may be changed into lactic acid without altering its constituents, so metals can alter their character under the influence of the Philosopher’s Stone. The explanation of the latter case is no more difficult than that of the former. The ferment does not take any part in the chemical changes it brings about, and no satisfactory explanation of its effects can be found either in the laws of affinity or in the forces of electricity, light, or heat. As with the ferment, the required quantity of the Philosopher’s Stone is infinitesimal. Medicine, philosophy, every modern science was at one time a source of such errors and extravagances as are associated with medieval alchemy, but they are not therefore neglected and despised. Wherefore, then, should we be blind tot he scientific nature of transmutation?One of the foundations of alchemical theories was that minerals grew and developed in the earth, like organic things. It was always the aim of nature to produce gold, the most precious metal, but when circumstances were not favorable the baser metals resulted. The desire of the old alchemists was to surprise nature’s secrets, and thus attain the ability to do in a short period what nature takes years to accomplish. Nevertheless, the medieval alchemists appreciated the value of time in their experiments as modern alchemists never do. M. Figuier’s friend urged him not to condemn these exponents of the hermetic philosophy for their metaphysical tendencies, for, he said, there are facts in our sciences that can only be explained in that light. If, for instance, copper be placed in air or water, there will be no result, but if a touch of some acid be added, it will oxidize. The explanation is that “the acid provokes oxidation of the metal because it has an affinity for the oxide which tends to form.” – a material fact most metaphysical in its production, and only explicable thereby.He concluded his argument with an appeal for tolerance towards the medieval alchemists, whose work is underrated because it is not properly understood.