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Temptation and Atonement,522,
Southey, (Mrs.) Poems of, 230
Vases Sacres, Les,
483 Timber, Durability of, 95
Son to His Father,
Tom Thumb's Phrenology,. 240
Turkish Slavery, :
Boar Hunt in Brittany, 334
Conde's Daughter, . 253 Venice Convention of Natural-
Wollaston, Life of,
41 Ward, Rob’t Plummer, 239
Pretty Old Woman of Vevay, 34 Willard, Mrs., on the Blood, 442
LITTELL'S LIVING AGE.
From the British Quarterly Review. We have been informed that, soon after Wollas(1.) The Bakerian Lecture for 1828.
ton's death, all the documents and materials necesMethod of rendering Platina malleable. By sary for his biography were placed in the hands of W. H. WOLLASTON, M.D., V.P.R.S.
a gentleman well qualified for the task of writing
it. The expected work, however, has not appear. (2.) Philosophical Transactions for 1829.
ed, and, so far as we are aware, no progress has Description of a Micrescopic Doublet ; On a been made towards its production. We trust that Method of Comparing the Light of the Sun with the idea of publishing a life of Wollaston has not that of the Fixed Stars, On the Water of the been abandoned, and that we shall yet see his perMediterrancar. By W. H. WOLLASTON, M.D., sonal history placed on permanent record. V.P.R.S.
Meanwhile, we think we shall do our readers a WILLIAM Hyde WOLLASTON, one of the ablest service, by bringing before them such a sketch of and most renowned of English chemists and natu- | the philosopher, as the scanty materials at our disral philosophers, was born August 6, 1766, and posal enable us to furnish. Imperfect and fragdied in December, 1828. Seventeen years have mentary as it necessarily is, it will give them some passed away since his death, and yes no biography idea of a very remarkable man. An experienced has appeared, although he has as wide a reputation crystallographer can tell from a few sandlike grains, among men of science as Sir Humphrey Davy, of or a single detached and rounded angle, that the whom lives innumerable have been written. This crystal of which they once were parts was a perhas in part arisen from the comparatively retired fect cube, a many-sided prism, or a symmetrica) life which Wollaston led, and the reserve and pyramid. The geologist can infer from a tooth or austerity of his character. He was not, like his claw much concerning the whole animal to which great contemporary, a public lecturer to a highly it belonged. We trust that our readers will in like popular institution, and thereby an object of inter- manner be able to piece our biographical fragments est, not only to men of science, but likewise to together into “one entire and perfect chrysolite;" students of literature, and even to people of fash- and that they will find the palæontologist's guiding ion. His life was spent in his laboratory, from mottoes, ungue
,” “Ex pede Herwhich even his intimate friends were excluded; and culem," lead them to the conclusion that they are the results of his labors were made known only by dealing with one of the megatheria among men of essays, published for the most part in the Transac- science. tions of the Royal Society of London. His dis- William Hyde Wollaston belonged to a Staffordcoveries, however, were so many, and of an impor- shire family, distinguished for several generations tant a kind, and made his name so wide known, by their successful devotion to literature and that we cannot but wonder that no bi raphy of science. His great-grandfather, the Rev. William him has yet appeared. Two of his plications, Wollaston, was author of a work famous in its the one containing the description of reflecting day, entitled, “ The Religion of Nature Delineatgoniometer, the other explaining
process by ed."
His father, the Rev. Francis Wollaston, of which platina r ay be rendered mrable, would Chiselhurst, in Kent, from his own observations, alone have enti ed Wollaston to a ace in the roll made an extensive catalogue of the northern cirof natural ph sophers worthy of lengthened re-cumpolar stars, which, with an account of the inmembrance. cad he been a German, some patient, struments employed, and tables for the reductions, painstaking fellow-countryman would long ago was published under the title of " Fasciculus Ashave put on record all that could be learned con- tronomicus,” in 1800. cerning his personal history. Had he been a The subject of our memoir vis the se ond son Frenchman, an eloquent Dumas or Arago would of the astronomer, and of Al ca Hyde, of Charhave read his eloge to the assembled men of science ter-house square, London. He was one of sevenof the French capital, in language acceptable to teen children, and was born at East Dereham, a the most learned, and intelligible to the most un village some sixteen miles from Norwich. on the scientific of men. His fate as an Englishman is, 6th of August, 1766. After the usual preparatory to have his memory preserved (otherwise than by education, he went to Cambridge, and entered at his own works) only by one or two meagre and Caius College, where he made great progress. In unauthenticated sketches, which scarcely tell more several of the sketches published of him, he is than that he was born, lived some sixty years, pub- said to have been senior wrangler of his year ; but lished certain papers, and died.
this is a mistake, arising out of the fact, that a With the exception of some faint and imperfect person of the same surname, Mr. Francis Wollasglimpses of an austere taciturn solitary, perfecting ton, of Sidney Sussex College, gained the first wonderful discoveries in a laboratory hermetically place in 1783. Dr. Wollaston did not graduate in sealed against all intruders, we learn almost nothing arts, but took the degree of M.B. in 1787, and that of the individuality of the worker. A few anec of M.D. in 1793. He became a fellow of Caius dotes, incidentally preserved in the lives of some College soon after taking
his degree, and continued of his contemporaries, contain nearly all that has one till his death. At Cambridge he resided till seen published concerning his personal history. 1789, and astronomy appears to have been his
favorite study there, although there is evidence to fied his fixed intention to decline competition, gave
papers on important questions in astronomy, optics,
lar ingenuity both in devising and in constructing He had no occasion to regret the change even in apparatus which we shall afterwards find to have a pecuniary point of view, the only one in which been one of his great characteristics, succeeded by his abandonment of medicine was likely to have a few happy contrivances in making a small teleinjured him. His process for rendering crude scope completely serve the purpose. His special platina malleable, which conferred so great a ser-object in watching the passage of Venus, was to vice on analytical chemistry, is said to have brought ascertain whether or not the sun has an atmosphere him more than thirty thousand pounds, and he is like that of the earth. He satisfied himself that it alleged to have made money by several of his has not, and embodied his results in the paper, the minor discoveries a, 'inventions.
title of which we have given. The remainder of Vollaston's life must be re- It is a very curious attempt to decide a most diffiferred to in terms like to those in which the sacred cult chemical problem by reference to an astronomwriter of the Book of Chronicles finishes his brief ical fact. The chemical question is, do the elements record of each Jewish king : “ Now the rest of of compounds consist of indivisible particles, or his acts and his deeds first and last are written in aloms, or do they not? It is a branch of the great the book of the kings of Israel and Judah.” What problem which has occupied physics and metaphysthe book of the Jewish kings is to their lives, the ics since the dawn of speculation, in vain attempts archives and records of the Royal Society are to to decide either way, viz., is matter finitely or inour scientific men. Dr. Wollaston became a fellow finitely divisible? Our author undertakes to show, of that society in 1793, and was made second sec- not only that this difficulty may be solved, but that retary in 1806. He was for many years vice-pres- in fact it was solved, though no one was aware of ident, and in 1820, between the death of Sir J. it, as early as the discovery of the telescope, and Banks and the election of Sir H. Davy, he occu- Galileo's first observation of the eclipses of Jupiter's pied the president's chair. There were not a few, moons. indeed, among the influential members of the soci- His mode of reasoning is as follows. If our air ety, who would have preferred him to Davy as consist of an infinite number of particles, then as permanent chairman ; but Wollaston having signi- these are known to be self-repulsive, there can be
Ro limit to the amount of its expansion. It will! It is certain, then, that the earth's atmosphere is spread out into space, on every side, and be found limited, and according to Wollaston it is equally surrounding each of the heavenly bodies. sure that matter is only finitely divisible.
If, on the other hand, the atmosphere consist of The paper we are discussing excited great attena finite number of molecules or atoms, it will find tion among men of science; and for a long period, a limit at no great distance from the earth. For though few implicitly assented to the validity of the force of repulsion between the atoms will rap- the argument, no one appeared able to detect any idly diminish as they recede from each other, till fallacy in its reasoning. It was commented on by it become insufficient to oppose the counteracting Faraday, Graham, Turner, and Daubeny, as an imforce of gravity. The air will then cease to expand, portant contribution to chemistry; and referred to and present a row of bounding molecules, prevented by Dumas as the only attempt which had been made from falling towards the earth by the repulsion of in modern times to decide by physics the question the particles between it and them, and from reced- of the finite or infinite divisibility of matter. More ing from the earth by their own weight. The con- recently, it has been shown that the fact that the clusion from this reasoning is, what if astronomy atmosphere is limited will not justify the conclusion can show that any one of the heavenly bodies has which Wollaston deduced from it. not an atmosphere of the same nature as ours, It has been suggested by Dumas, following out chemistry will be entitled, and indeed compelled, to the views of Poisson, that the low temperature infer, first, that our atmosphere, and then that all which is known to prevail in the upper regions of matter, consists of finitely divisible particles or the atmosphere, may be such at its boundary as to true atoms.
destroy the elasticity of the air, and even to conThe astronomical problem is easily and speedily dense it into a liquid or freeze it into a solid. The solved. The moon is too near us, to permit of ob-outer envelope of our atmosphere is thus supposed servations of the necessary kind being made, as to to be a shell of frozen air. "If this view be just, her possession of an atmosphere similar in consti- our atmosphere is limited, not because it consists of tution to ours; but according to telescopic observa- atoms, but simply because a great cold prevails in tion, she is a naked globe. The phenomena pre- its upper regions. sented when Venus or Mercury passes close to the Professor Whewell has shown that Wollaston sun, certify that he has no atmosphere like that of was not entitled to assume that the law which conthe earth ; but his high temperature, and its possi- nects the density of the air with the compressing ble effect on an atmosphere, if he have one, some- force is the same at the limit of the atmosphere, as what lessen the value of the fact. Jupiter, how- it is near the surface of the earth. He suggests a ever, and his five moons, admit of observations different law which may prevail, and which would which make it certain that our aërial envelope has terminate the almosphere without the assumption not reached to that heavenly body.* When his of atoms. satellites suffer eclipse by passing behind him, they Lastly, it has been pointed out, that though all appear to a spectator on the earth, to move across Wollaston's postulates were granted him, they his disk till they reach its edge, when they instanta- would only entitle him to infer that the atmosphere neously disappear. When they reappear, after consists of a finite number of repelling molecules. moving round him, they emerge in a moment from To establish this, is to establish nothing. We are behind his body, and start at once into full view. still on the threshold of the argument. Each moleHad Jupiter an atmosphere like ours, the occulta- cule supplies as good a text whereon to discuss the tion of his satellites would not occur as it is ob- question of divisibility, as the whole atmosphere served to do. Our sun, when he sinks below the out of which it was taken. The point which most horizon, remains visible to us by the light bent up of all demanded proof, namely, that the molecule or refracted to our eyes, through the transparent was an atom, was the very one which Wollaston air, and twilight slowly darkens into night. In like took for granted. manner, long before the rising sun would be seen, Beautiful, then, and certain as are the astroif our globe were naked, the air sends up his rays nomical facts brought to light by Wollaston, they to our eyes, and he becomes visible. If Jupiter supply no decision of the question of the divisibility had an atmosphere like that of the earth, each of of matter. That problem still presents the same his moons, instead of disappearing at once behind two-fold aspect of difficulty which it has ever exhis disk, would exhibit a twilight recession, and hibited. If we affirm that matter is infinitely slowly wane away. When it returned, it would divisible, we assert the apparent contradiction, that be seen much sooner, after being lost sight of, than a finite whole contains an infinite number of parts. it is at present, and would gradually wax brighter If, pressed by this difficulty, we seek to prove that and brighter till it came fully into view. In other the parts are as finite as the whole they make up, words, the atmosphere of Jupiter would send back we fail in our attempt. We can never exhibit the the light of the satellite to us, after the latter dis- finile factors of our finite whole; and the so-called appeared behind the planet ; and would send for- alom always proves as divisible as the mass out of ward that light before the moon reappeared. Wol- which it was extracted. Finity and infinity must laston shows that, in the case last supposed, the both be believed in ; but here, as in other defourth satellite would never be eclipsed, but would partments of knowledge, we cannot reconcile remain visible when at the very back of the planet. them. * The reader will observe that the argument is based, chemical papers, with the exception of those refer
The greater number of Wollaston's strictly not on the fact of the heavenly bodies lacking atmospheres, which some of them may possess, but on their ring to physiology and pathology, are devoted to wanting atmospheres of the same nature as ours. We the exposition of points connected with the chemiscannot apply chemistry to ascertain whether oxygen and try of ihe metals. He was the discoverer of pallanitrogen, or the other gases of our atmosphere, envelope dium and rhodium, once interesting only as chemidistant globes ; but we can bring optics to discover cal curiosities, but now finding important uses in whether a power to refract light such as our air possesses, exists around any of these spheres. From the text it will the arts. He discovered, also, the identity of be seen that no such power has been observed in any case. columbium and tantalum. He was the first to re
cognize the existence of metallic titanium in the In consequence of this insufficiency of his tools, slags of iron furnaces; and he is the deviser of the the analytical chemist was brought to a complete important process by which platina is rendered stand. Whole departments of his science lay malleable. "He published, also, analyses of me- around him unexplored and unconquered, tempting teoric iron, and showed that potash exists in sea him by their beauty and their promise. He could
only, however, fold his arms and gaze wistfully The majority of the essays in which these dis- at them, like a defeated engineer before a city coveries were made known, are of too limited and which his artillery and engines have failed to subtechnical a character to admit of notice in the pages due. of our journal. There is one of them, however, It was at this crisis that Wollaston came forthat, on a process by which platina may be ren- ward to put a new weapon into the hands of the dered malleable,” which cannot be dismissed with chemical analyst. Several years before he turned out a word of explanation.
his attention to the subject, scattered grains of a It must seem curious to a general reader, that brilliant metal had been found in the sands of cermuch value should be attached to a mere metallur- tain of the South American rivers. To this, from gical process, however ingenious. He will be its resemblance to silver, or in their language plata, further perplexed by learning that the Royal So- the Spaniards gave the name of platina, or little ciety, passing over Wollaston's claims to reward, silver. This metal was found to resist the action as the author of important speculative, and purely of nearly every substance except aqua regia ; to scientific papers, selected this essay as the object suffer no change, nor to become rusted by proof their special commendation. The strong words tracted exposure to the atmosphere ; and to be used by the council of the society are, Your perfectly infusible by the most powerful forge or council have deemed themselves bound to express furnace. their strong approbation of this interesting memoir Here then was a substance for the chemist's by awarding a royal medal to its author, and they crucible, could a method of working it only be disanticipate with confidence a general approbation of covered. But the very properties which made its what they have done.” It may help the reader to value certain, if it were wrought into vessels, forunderstand why the paper in question is esteemed bade its being easily fashioned into them. It so highly if he be made aware of the following occurred in nature only in small grains which facts.
could not be melted, so that it was impossible, as Among other bodies which the alchemists of the with most other metals, to convert it into utensils middle ages thought it possible to discover, and by fusion. Neither was it possible by hammering accordingly sought after, was a Universal Solvent, to consolidate the grains into considerable masses, or Alkahest as they named it. This imaginary so that vessels could be beaten out of them, for the fluid was to possess the power of dissolving every crude metal is very impure. Accordingly, it hapsubstance, whatever its nature, and to reduce all pened, that for years after the value of platina had kinds of matter to the liquid form. It does not been discovered, it could not be turned to account. seem to have occurred to these ingenious dreamers Whole cargoes of the native metal, although it is to consider, that what dissolved everything, could now six times more costly than silver, are said to be preserved in nothing. Of what shall we con- have lain unpurchased for years in London, bestruct the vessel in which a fluid is to be kept, fore Wollaston devised his method of workwhich hungers after all things, and can eat its way ing it. through adamant as swiftly as water steals through That method was founded upon the property walls of ice? A universal solvent must require an which platina possesses of agglutinating at a high equally universal non solubile in which it may be temperature, though not melted, in the way iron retained for use.
does, so that, like that metal, it can be welded, and The modern chemist's desire has lain in the different pieces forged into one.
This property opposite direction from that of his alchemical fore- could not, however, be directly applied to the father. It is the non solubile, not the solvent, that native grains owing to their impurity and irreguhe has sought after, and Wollaston supplied himlarity in form. with that in malleable platina. Long before the Wollaston commenced by dissolving the metal close of last century, the chemical analyst found in aqua regia ; purified it whilst in solution from the reägents he had occasion to make use of, alka- the greater number of accompanying substances hests or universal solvents enough, for the vessels which alloyed it; and then, by the addition of sal in which he could contain them. For the greater ammoniac, precipitated it as an insoluble compound number of purposes, glass and porcelain resist suf- with chlorine and muriate of ammonia. When ficiently the action of even the strongest acids, this compound was heated, these bodies were dissialkalies, and other powerful solvents. In some pated in vapor, and left the platina in the state of cases, however, they are attacked by these, and a fine black powder, which was further purified by cannot be employed in accurate analysis. When- washing with water. ever, moreover, it is necessary to subject bodies to It was only further necessary to fill a proper a high temperature along with active reagents, as, mould with this powder well moistened, and to for example, in the fusion of minerals with alka- subject it to powerful compression. By this prolies, porcelain can seldom be employed, and is cess the powder cohered into a tolerably solid often worse than useless.
mass, which was gently heated by a charcoal fire, It was in vain that chemists had recourse to sil- so as to expel the moisture and give it greater ver and gold, as substitutes for the insufficient clay tenacity. It was afterwards subjected to ihe inin the construction of their crucibles. These tensest heat of a wind furnace, and hammered metals melt at comparatively low temperatures, while hot, so as completely to agglutinate its partiand, before a sufficient heat can be attained to fuse cles, and convert it into a solid ingot. This ingot the more refractory substances enclosed in them, or bar could then he flattened into leaf, drawn into they run into liquids, and the crucible and its con- wire, or submitted to any of the processes by tents are lost in a useless slag.
which the most ductile metals are wrought.