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notion may be formed from the contents of one of the Gerinan books of which we have given the titles. The · Handwörter• buch der reinen und angewandten Chemie' is a dictionary of pure and applied chemistry, which began to be issued a few years ago. It has now reached the beginning of the letter K, having completed only ten letters of the alphabet. Nevertheless, to bring up its accumulated arrears, a supplement of 440 pages has been issued, which is now only commencing the letter B. The supplement, in fact, contains nearly as much matter under the letter A as the body of the dictionary itself — so that two works are, in reality, proceeding pari passu, the one bringing up the arrears of the other, and promising, when complete, to fill as many volumes. This case illustrates not only the rapid rate at which chemical knowledge is advancing, but the special disadvantages also under which the students and teachers of progressive knowledge labour. The newest text-books are always behind the state of the science. If not already in arrear before they issue from the press, they are always greatly so before an edition of a treatise even of acknowledged merit can be sold off among a limited population like ours. Those who only read or teach from such books must, therefore, be behind also. Hence the necessity of purchasing new works almost monthly, in various tongues --- of continued study in order to maintain a familiarity with the status quo of the science — of the regular perusal of journals, and of the personal prosecution of laboratory experiment and research.
The progress of chemistry during the present century is characteristically divided into two epochs. During the first thirty years the mineral or inorganic branch of the science received the principal attention of chemists; during the latter twenty, organic chemistry has been gradually attracting to itself the larger number of chemical investigators. It has, in consequence, advanced not only in general estimation, but also in actual extent and in positive importance, in a proportionate degree. In the history of the inorganic period, the names of Davy, Dalton, Wollaston, Prout, Thomson, and Berzelius — all but one now numbered with the dead - occupy a prominent place. But the long career and many labours of Berzelius connect him more than any other of his contemporaries with the successive leading steps in this department from 1800 to 1848. A brief outline of his scientific life, therefore — a somewhat scanty justice having been done him in this country while he lived — besides being otherwise very instructive, will both lighten the graver matter of our pages, and will enable us to
Early Life of Berzelius.
present to the reader, in a somewhat connected and more readable form, the main consecutive advances of the science.
In the year 1778, Sweden lost the illustrious Linnæus, but in the August of the year following the loss was replaced by the birth of Berzelius. Early an orphan, he was for some years ander the care of a stepfather, a pious Swedish clergyman, with whom he read a chapter of the Bible every morning, * and one of “ Sturm's Reflections” every afternoon, preparatory to his daily walk. In the course of one of these walks, it is related, that, struck with his eagerness in collecting plants, and with the acuteness of his observations, his stepfather remarked, 'Jacob, thou hast talent enough to walk in the foot* steps either of Linnæus or Cartouche, - I hope thou hast
God before thy eyes, and so wilt thou do the former.' Yet for some time he gave little prospect of the fulfilment of these hopes. Bandied about from house to house, and brought up among connexions who looked upon him as a burden, his vigour, though unbroken, was long subdued. When his childhood was over, he spent four unprofitable years at the school of Norköping, and quitted it, along with some other young men, for the university of Upsala, in the autumn of 1796. But opposite to his name, in the list forwarded by the Rector of the school to the University authorities, were the words 'indifferent * in behaviour and of doubtful hope. He was received therefore, with reserve, and regarded with suspicion. His first year was passed idly; and, his small patrimony - originally 200 rixdollars (171.), and the ninth part of a small farm — being then exhausted, he engaged himself as tutor to a family in East Gothland. The necessity of teaching made him here somewhat improve himself, till, having obtained a stipendium (an exhibition or bursary) he returned to college in 1798. He now underwent what is called the Medico-philosophical Examen; and it is remarkable - considering the eminence he afterwards obtained in this line- that Afzelius, the Professor of Chemistry, was so dissatisfied with his answers, as to say to his brother professors, that he would not send the young man back if they *were satisfied with him. He was not absolutely turned back, therefore, but his second examination was postponed for a year. It was possibly this partial disgrace, which at length aroused him to exertion; and the objections of Afzelius may, have turned his special attention to Chemistry. He was nineteen years of age; and he began to frequent the laboratory of the professor, then, as now, in the continental universities, open to the students. But his evil name accompanied him thither. On one of his first visits he was encountered by the question,
ften display with an are at home with a view a
• if he understood the difference between a laboratory and 'a kitchen ?' and, finally, the treatment of Ekeberg, the laborator, drove him from it in disgust. Meanwhile he studied assiduously at his lodgings, without counsel or advice. War was now raging between phlogiston and oxygen. The teachers adhered to the old faith - the despised pupil took up the new, and succeeded, in his own apartments, in preparing oxygen gas, and showing the combustion of various substances in it to his fellow-students, although in the laboratory, for a whole year, the attempt had been made in vain. In our own days of experimental dexterity, what a picture does this present of the condition of laboratories and of the skill of laborators in the year 1800! And how much does the following incident teach us !
One afternoon, on entering the laboratory, a glass retort caught his eye, which the professor had unwillingly taken from his closet in the morning, for some necessary experiment, with many injunctions to carefulness and a safe return. For a glass retort Berzelius had long been wishing, with a view to an experiment he desired to perform at home. Snatching at the unexpected good luck, with an absence of scruple such as keen collectors often display, he carried home the prize, and there, in the silence and solitude of night, observed the phenomenon he longed to see, and by which he was led to his first chemical discovery. The searching spirit which many years before had struck his step-father in the child, had begun again to animate the young man. With the stolen retort he not only increased his own knowledge, but added also to that of mankind at large. Though as yet scarcely looked upon as a student, he was already on the highway of discovery; and though years of difficulty and struggle afterwards beset the man, this keen spirit never once forsook him — it increased only in energy as the obstacles increased with which he had to contend. The summer of 1799 was spent by him in an apothecary's shop in Wadstena, where, from an Italian, he learned the art of working in glass : his after dexterity in an art now so indispensable in the laboratory, will be long remembered by all his pupils. Having passed the winter in Upsala, he was employed during the ensuing summer as assistant to a physician at the mineral waters of Medevi. These waters he analysed, and made them the subject of his thesis at his second examen, in December, 1800. But, now again, Afzelius opposed him at his examination. He had no confidence, he said, in the analyses of the young man; and, finally, he recommended him to go to the University of • Lund, where he might possibly have better luck.' The difficulties, however, were at last got over, and he was allowed to pass.
261 Meanwhile he had made researches on the production of nitric ether, on the properties of nitrous oxide, and other subjects then little understood. These he placed in the hands of Afzelius, by whom they were sent to the Academy of Sciences at Stockholm. After three years the secretary of that learned body returned them with the brief remark, that they did not acknowledge
* the new hen we seem to stas not yet auent period
Here then we seem to stand on the very threshold of modern chemistry. Phlogiston was not yet abandoned by that very scientific academy, which, at a subsequent period, for nearly thirty years, led the van in chemical views and nomenclature.
The discovery of Volta, in 1800, had excited Berzelius to make experiments with the new pile on the human body; these formed the subject of his dissertation at his licentiate's examen in 1802. The following year he settled in Stockholm, and was appointed Adjunct Professor of Medicine and Pharmacy in the College of Medicine. In 1804 he took his Doctor's Degree, eight years after leaving Norköping; but it was not till 1807 that he was appointed actual Professor in the School of Medicine of Stockholm, an office which he held for nearly forty years. Still the Academy - whose proceedings he afterwards directed for so many years — refused to publish his papers; less generous minds could see no genius in one whom an unfavourable reputation had followed from school and from university. He associated himself, therefore, with his friend Hisinger in the publication of the Afhandlingar i fysik, Kemi och Mineralogie.' which subsequently attained so much celebrity. His perseverance finally triumphed. In 1808 he was elected a member of the Academy; in 1810 acted as its president; in 1813 a yearly pension was assigned him, as had formerly been done to Scheele, on condition that he should communicate to the 'Academy the researches they had formerly despised ;' and, finally, in 1818, during his absence in Paris, he was elected Perpetual Secretary. This appointment placed him at the head of the science of his native country; and the pecuniary and other difficulties under which he had hitherto laboured were, at the same time, in a great measure removed.
The early life of Berzelius was thus a constant struggle with poverty, with unkindness, and with many difficulties, which had originated in an idle, listless, and unconciliatory disposition, itself the fruit of a depressed and half-broken spirit. How different the opinion formed of him by his teachers from that which his pupils and friends universally entertained in after life. The mental discipline he underwent at college probably, however, improved him as a man; and, had he not thus been almost forced
thitrument of investithe experimentical relations of new power
into the study of experimental science, to which his mind seemed early and naturally predisposed, he might have passed a life of little comfort to himself, and of no value to his country.
It is from 1803 that the researches of the Swedish chemist link themselves with all the main steps in the progress of the chemistry of the present century. The era of modern chemistry may be said to have dawned when the oxygen of Lavoisier began to get the better of the phlogiston of Stahl, and the balance to be recognised as an indispensable instrument of research. It fairly commenced when the discoveries of Volta and Galvani not only made men acquainted with a new power which evidently influenced the chemical relations of bodies, but put in the hands of the experimenter a new and most effective instrument of investigation. In the successful hands of Davy this instrument soon after led to the most felicitous results. In 1803 Berzelius published a paper on the decomposition of saline compounds by galvanism ; five years later Davy, by the same agent, decomposed the alcalies; and, while the world was ringing with this latter discovery, 'I succeeded,' says the Swedish Philosopher, ' in going a step further; and, by the aid
of quicksilver, decomposed the alcaline earths and ammonia, (of which I informed Davy, who acknowledged, in his reply,
that this reduction was previously unknown to him.' Thus within twenty years were two revolutions made in chemical knowledge and theory, and each by the use of a new tool.
The balance established the views of Lavoisier, the galvanic battery wrought the discoveries of Davy.
These discoveries were the foundation of the Electro-Chemical theory, and became intimately connected also with what is called the Atomic theory, or the doctrine of definite, equivalent, and multiple proportions. The study of the mutual and relative influences and re-actions of atoms or molecules, insensible in size, and acting at insensible distances, — of the laws by which these are regulated or determined,- of the sensible effects which accompany, or follow, from the mutual combinations and disjunctions of these molecules,--and of the modifications which circumstances or agents, under or beyond our control, impose upon the manifestation of these laws, and upon their results ;-forms, in reality, a large part of the whole field of chemical inquiry: Its deepest doctrines and researches are entirely molecular, and the pure science has become a refined department of physics. The foundation of the Atomic theory was laid by the researches of Wenzel and Richter, in Germany; but this theory was first made the basis of a new system of Chemical Philosophy by our English Dalton. To the latter, and to Dr. Prout, as,