This entertaining book from 1915 contains the following articles,
which have been extracted & and titled for your perusal.
A Method of Electro-Plating Lizards
A History of Electricity
The Leyden Jar
Skinned Frog Soup
Odd Thermoelectric Effects
Bain`s Chemical Telegraph
The Footstep of a Fly
The Electric Arc
The Incandescent Lamp
Heaps of Gems Phosphoresce
The Electric Boat
Silver Starlight Detector
Microphone Saves Russian Lady!
Edison's Electric Pen
Early Electric Gas Ignitor
The Electric Eel
Electricity the Miraculous
A Single Disturbing Sentence, Regarding Marconi's Equipment
Arc Produced Silicon Carbide
Arc Produced Calcium Carbide
Warning! - Munro here supplies information on the formation of a conductive film on the surface of organic structures prior to electro-plating. He fails, however, to warn of the dangers involved with alcoholic silver nitrate solutions. If acidic (likely if the nitrate has been "home" prepared from the metal), then highly explosive silver fulminate could be precipitated.
Natural objects, such as flowers, ferns, leaves, feathers, insects, and lizards, can be prettily coated with bronze or copper, not to speak of gold and silver. They are too delicate to be coated with black lead in order to receive the skin of metal, but they can be dipped in solutions, leaving a film which can be reduced to gold or silver. For instance, they may be soaked in an alcoholic solution of nitrate of silver, made by shaking 2 parts of the crystals in 100 parts of alcohol in a stoppered bottle. When dry, the object should be suspended under a glass shade and exposed to a stream of sulphuretted hydrogen gas; or it may be immersed in a solution of 1 part of phosphorus in 15 parts of bisulphide of carbon, 1 part of bees-wax, 1 part of spirits of turpentine, 1 part of asphaltum, and 1/8 part of caoutchouc dissolved in bisulphide of carbon. This leaves a superficial film which is metallised by dipping in a solution of 20 grains of nitrate of silver to a pint of water. On this metallic film a thicker layer of gold and silver in different shades can be deposited by the current, and the silver surface may also be "oxidised" by washing it in a weak solution of platinum chloride.
Amber, the fossil resin of a pine tree, was found in Sicily, the shores of the Baltic, and other parts of Europe. It was a precious stone then as now, and an article of trade with the Phoenicians, those early merchants of the Mediterranean. The attractive power might enhance the value of the gem in the eyes of the superstitious ancients, but they do not seem to have investigated it, and beyond the speculation of Thales, they have told us nothing more about it.
Towards the end of the sixteenth century Dr. Gilbert of Colchester, physician to Queen Elizabeth, made this property the subject of experiment, and showed that, far from being peculiar to amber, it was possessed by sulphur, wax, glass, and many other bodies which he called electrics, from the Greek word elektron, signifying amber. This great discovery was the starting-point of the modern science of electricity. That feeble and mysterious force which had been the wonder of the simple and the amusement of the vain could not be slighted any longer as a curious freak of nature, but assuredly none dreamt that a day was dawning in which it would transform the world.
Otto von Guericke, burgomaster of Magdeburg, was the first to invent a machine for exciting the electric power in larger quantities by simply turning a ball of sulphur between the bare hands. Improved by Sir Isaac Newton and others, who employed glass rubbed with silk, it created sparks several inches long. The ordinary frictional machine as now made consists of a disc of plate glass mounted on a spindle and turned by hand. Rubbers of silk, smeared with an amalgam of mercury and tin, to increase their efficiency, press the rim of the plate between them as it revolves, and a brass conductor, insulated on glass posts, is fitted with points like the teeth of a comb, which, as the electrified surface of the plate passes by, collect the electricity and charge the conductor with positive electricity. Machines of this sort have been made with plates 7 feet in diameter, and yielding sparks nearly 2 feet long.
The tiny sparks from the electrophorus, or the bigger discharges of an electrical machine, can be stored in a simple apparatus called a Leyden jar, which was discovered by accident. One day Cuneus, a pupil of Muschenbroeck, professor in the University of Leyden, was trying to charge some water in a glass bottle by connecting it with a chain to the sparkling knob of an electrical machine. Holding the bottle in one hand, he undid the chain with the other, and received a violent shock which cast the bottle on the floor. Muschenbroeck, eager to verify the phenomenon, repeated the experiment, with a still more lively and convincing result. His nerves were shaken for two days, and he afterwards protested that he would not suffer another shock for the whole kingdom of France.
A more tractable kind of electricity than that of friction was discovered at the beginning of the present century. The story goes that some edible frogs were skinned to make a soup for Madame Galvani, wife of the professor of anatomy in the University of Bologna, who was in delicate health. As the frogs were lying in the laboratory of the professor they were observed to twitch each time a spark was drawn from an electrical machine that stood by. A similar twitching was also noticed when the limbs were hung by copper skewers from an iron rail. Galvani thought the spasms were due to electricity in the animal, and produced them at will by touching the nerve of a limb with a rod of zinc, and the muscle with a rod of copper in contact with the zinc.
It was proved, however, by Alessanjra Volta, professor of physics in the University of Pavia, that the electricity was not in the animal but generated by the contact of the two dissimilar metals and the moisture of the flesh. Going a step further, in the year 1800 he invented a new source of electricity on this principle, which is known as "Volta's pile." It consists of plates or discs of zinc and copper separated by a wafer of cloth moistened with acidulated water. When the zinc and copper are joined externally by a wire, a CURRENT of electricity is found in the wire One pair of plates with the liquid between makes a "couple" or element; and two or more, built one above another in the same order of zinc, copper, zinc, copper, make the pile. The extreme zinc and copper plates, when joined by a wire, are found to deliver a current.
A very feeble thermo-electric effect can be produced by heating the junction of two different pieces of the same substance, or even by making one part of the same conductor hotter than another. Thus a sensitive galvanometer will show a weak current if a copper wire connected in circuit with it be warmed at one point. Moreover, it has been found by Lord Kelvin that if an iron wire is heated at any point, and an electric current be passed through it, the hot point will shift along the wire in a direction contrary to that of the current.
The curious mineral which has the property of attracting iron was known to the Chinese several thousand years ago, and certainly to the Greeks in the times of Thales, who, as in the case of the rubbed amber, ascribed the property to its possession of a soul.
Lodestone, a magnetic oxide of iron (Fe3O4), is found in various parts of China, especially at T'szchou in Southern Chihli, which was formerly known as the "City of the Magnet." It was called by the Chinese the love-stone or thsu-chy, and the stone that snatches iron or ny-thy-chy, and perchance its property of pointing out the north and south direction was discovered by dropping a light piece of the stone, if not a sewing needle made of it, on the surface of still water. At all events, we read in Pere Du Halde's Description de la Chine, that sometime in or about the year 2635 B.C. the great Emperor Hoang-ti, having lost his way in a fog whilst pursuing the rebellious Prince Tchiyeou on the plains of Tchou-lou, constructed a chariot which showed the cardinal points, thus enabling him to overtake and put the prince to death.
A magnetic car preceded the Emperors of China in ceremonies of state during the fourth century of our era. It contained a genius in a feather dress who pointed to the south, and was doubtless moved by a magnet floating in water or turning on a pivot. This rude appliance was afterwards refined into the needle compass for guiding mariners on the sea, and assisting the professors of feng- shui or geomancy in their magic rites.
Magnetite was also found at Heraclea in Lydia, and at Magnesium on the Meander or Magnesium at Sipylos, all in Asia Minor. It was called the "Heraclean Stone" by the people, but came at length to bear the name of "Magnet" after the city of Magnesia or the mythical shepherd Magnes, who was said to have discovered it by the attraction of his iron crook.
The ancients knew that it had the power of communicating its attractive property to iron, for we read in Plato's "Ion" that a number of iron rings can be supported in a chain by the Heraclean Stone. Lucretius also describes an experiment in which iron filings are made to rise up and "rave" in a brass basin by a magnet held underneath. We are told by other writers that images of the gods and goddesses were suspended in the air by lodestone in the ceilings of the temples of Diana of Ephesus, of Serapis at Alexandria, and others. It is surprising, however, that neither the Greeks nor Romans, with all their philosophy, would seem to have discovered its directive property.
During the dark ages pieces of Lodestone mounted as magnets were employed in the "black arts."
Apparently it was not until the twelfth century that the compass found its way into Europe from the East. In the Landnammabok of Ari Frode, the Norse historian, we read that Flocke Vildergersen, a renowned viking, sailed from Norway to discover Iceland in the year 868, and took with him two ravens as guides, for in those days the "seamen had no lodestone (that is, no lidar stein, or leading stone) in the northern countries." The Bible, a poem of Guiot de Provins, minstrel at the court of Barbarossa, which was written in or about the year 890, contains the first mention of the magnet in the West. Guiot relates how mariners have an "art which cannot deceive" of finding the position of the polestar, that does not move. After touching a needle with the magnet, "an ugly brown stone which draws iron to itself," he says they put the needle on a straw and float it on water so that its point turns to the hidden star, and enables them to keep their course. Arab traders had probably borrowed the floating needle from the Chinese, for Bailak Kibdjaki, author of the Merchant's Treasure, written in the thirteenth century, speaks of its use in the Syrian sea. The first Crusaders were probably instrumental in bringing it to France, at all events Jacobus de Vitry (1204-15) and Vincent de Beauvais (1250) mention its use, De Beauvais calling the poles of the needle by the Arab words aphron and zohran.
Ere long the needle was mounted on a pivot and provided with a moving card showing the principal directions. The variation of the needle from the true north and south was certainly known in China during the twelfth, and in Europe during the thirteenth century. Columbus also found that the variation changed its value as he sailed towards America on his memorable voyage of 1492. Moreover, in 1576, Norman, a compass maker in London, showed that the north- seeking end of the needle dipped below the horizontal.
The motion of the armature in both of these instruments takes a sensible time, but Alexander Bain, of Thurso, by trade a watchmaker, and by nature a genius, invented a chemical telegraph which was capable of a prodigious activity. The instrument of Bain resembled the Morse in marking the signals on a tape of moving paper, but this was done by electrolysis or electro-chemical decomposition. The paper was soaked in a solution of iodide of potassium in starch and water, and the signal currents were passed through it by a marking stylus or pencil of iron. The electricity decomposed the solution in its passage and left a blue stain on the paper, which corresponded to the dot and dash of the Morse apparatus. The Bain telegraph can record over 1000 words a minute as against 40 to 50 by the Morse or sounder, nevertheless it has fallen into disuse, perhaps because the solution was troublesome.
At the end of 1877 Professor D. E. Hughes, a distinguished Welshman, inventor of the printing telegraph, discovered that any loose contact between two conductors had the property of transmitting sounds by varying the strength of an electric current passing through it. Two pieces of metal--for instance, two nails or ends of wire--when brought into a loose or crazy contact under a slight pressure, and traversed by a current, will transmit speech. Two pieces of hard carbon are still better than metals, and if properly adjusted will make the tread of a fly quite audible in a telephone connected with them. Such is the famous "microphone," by which a faint sound can be magnified to the ear.
With the "pencil" microphone, in which a pointed rod of hard carbon, delicately poised between two brackets of carbon, which are connected in circuit with a battery and a Bell telephone. The joints of rod and bracket are so sensitive that the current flowing across them is affected in strength by the slightest vibration, even the walking of an insect. If, therefore, we speak near this microphone, the sonorous waves, causing the pencil to vibrate, will so vary the current in accordance with them as to reproduce the sounds of the voice in the telephone.
More on detecting the foot-falls of chitinous creatures of from 'Intermediate Physics' Watson 1932
The electric spark was, of course, familiar to the early experimenters with electricity, but the electric light, as we know it, was first discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy, the Cornish philosopher, in the year 1811 or thereabout. With the magic of his genius Davy transformed the spark into a brilliant glow by passing it between two points of carbon instead of metal. If we twist the wires (+ and--) which come from a voltaic battery, say of 20 cells, about two carbon pencils, and bring their tips together in order to start the current, then draw them a little apart, we shall produce an artificial or mimic star. A sheet of dazzling light, which is called the electric arc, is seen to bridge the gap. It is not a true flame, for there is little combustion, but rather a nebulous blaze of silvery lustre in a bluish veil of heated air. The points of carbon are white-hot, and the positive is eaten away into a hollow or crater by the current, which violently tears its particles from their seat and whirls them into the fierce vortex of the arc. The negative remains pointed, but it is also worn away about half as fast as the positive. This wasting of the carbons tends to widen the arc too much and break the current, hence in arc lamps meant to yield the light for hours the sticks are made of a good length, and a self- acting mechanism feeds them forward to the arc as they are slowly consumed, thus maintaining the splendour of the illumination.
Davy also found that a continuous wire or stick of carbon could be made white-hot by sending a sufficient current through it, and this fact is the basis of the incandescent lamp now so common in our homes.
Wires of platinum, iridium, and other inoxidisable metals raised to incandescence by the current are useful in firing mines, but they are not quite suitable for yielding a light, because at a very high temperature they begin to melt. Every solid body becomes red-hot--that is to say, emits rays of red light, at a temperature of about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, yellow rays at 1300 degrees, blue rays at 1500 degrees, and white light at 2000 degrees. It is found, however, that as the temperature of a wire is pushed beyond this figure the light emitted becomes far more brilliant than the increase of temperature would seem to warrant. It therefore pays to elevate the temperature of the filament as high as possible. Unfortunately the most refractory metals, such as platinum and alloys of platinum with iridium, fuse at a temperature of about 3450 degrees Fahrenheit. Electricians have therefore forsaken metals, and fallen back on carbon for producing a light. In 1845 Mr. Staite devised an incandescent lamp consisting of a fine rod or stick of carbon rendered white-hot by the current, and to preserve the carbon from burning in the atmosphere, he enclosed it in a glass bulb, from which the air was exhausted by an air pump.
Edison and Swan, in 1878, and subsequently, went a step further, and substituted a filament or fine thread of carbon for the rod. The new lamp united the advantages of wire in point of form with those of carbon as a material. The Edison filament was made by cutting thin slips of bamboo and charring them, the Swan by carbonising linen fibre with sulphuric acid. It was subsequently found that a hard skin could be given to the filament by "flashing" it -- that is to say, heating it to incandescence by the current in an atmosphere of hydrocarbon gas. The filament thus treated becomes dense and resilient.
There is some prospect of the luminosity excited in a vacuum tube by the alternating currents from a dynamo or an induction coil becoming an illuminant. Crookes has obtained exquisitely beautiful glows by the phosphorescence of gems and other minerals in a vacuum bulb. A heap of diamonds from various countries emit red, orange, yellow, green, and blue rays. Ruby, sapphire, and emerald give a deep red, crimson, or lilac phosphorescence, and sulphate of zinc a magnificent green glow.
Electric heating bids fair to become almost as important as electric illumination. When the arc was first discovered it was noticed that platinum, gold, quartz, ruby, and diamond--in fine, the most refractory minerals--were melted in it, and ran like wax. Ores and salts of the metals were also vapourised, and it was clear that a powerful engine of research had been placed in the hands of the chemist. As a matter of fact, the temperature of the carbons in the arc is comparable to that of the Sun. It measures 5000 to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and is the highest artificial heat known. Sir William Siemens was among the first to make an electric furnace heated by the arc, which fused and vapourised metallic ores, so that the metal could be extracted from them. Aluminium, chromium, and other valuable metals are now smelted by its means, and rough brilliants such as those found in diamond mines and meteoric stones have been crystallised from the fumes of carbon, like hoar frost in a cold mist.
In or about the year 1839, Jacobi sailed an electric boat on the Neva, with the help of an electromagnetic engine of one horse- power, fed by the current from a battery of Grove cells, and in 1882 a screw launch, carrying several passengers, and propelled by an electric motor of three horse-power, worked by forty-five accumulators, was tried on the Thames. Being silent and smokeless in its action, the electric boat soon came into favour, and there is now quite a flotilla on the river, with power stations for charging the accumulators at various points along the banks.
In 1879, Professor Graham Bell, the inventor of the speaking telephone, and Mr Summer Tamter, brought out an ingenious apparatus called the photophone, by which music and speech were sent along a beam of light for several hundred yards. The action of the photophone is based on the peculiar fact observed in 1873 by Mr J E Mayhew, that the electrical resistance of crystalline selenium diminishes when a ray of light falls upon it. A beam of sun or electric light, concentrated by a lens, is reflected by a thin mirror, and after traversing another lens, travels to the parabolic reflector, in the focus of which there is a selenium resistance in circuit with a battery and two telephones. Now, when a person speaks into the tube at the back of the mirror, the light is caused to vibrate with the sounds, and a wavering beam falls on the selenium, changing its resistance to the current. The strength of the current is thus varied with the sonorous waves, and the words spoken by the transmitter are heard in the telephones by the receiver. The photophone is, however, more of a scientific toy than a practical instrument.
Becquerel, the French chemist, found that two plates of silver freshly coated with silver from a solution of chloride of silver and plunged into water, form a voltaic cell which is sensitive to light. This can be seen by connecting the plates through a galvanometer, and allowing a ray of light to fall upon them. Other combinations of the kind have been discovered, and Professor Minchin, the Irish physicist, has used one of these cells to measure the intensity of starlight.
The "induction balance" of Professor Hughes is founded on the well-known fact that a current passing in one wire can induce a sympathetic current in a neighbouring wire. P1 and P2 are two similar coils or bobbins of thick wire in circuit with a battery and a microphone, while S1 and S2 are two similar coils or bobbins of fine wire in circuit with a telephone. It need hardly be said that when the microphone is disturbed by a sound, the current in the primary coils P1 & P2 will induce a corresponding current in the secondary coils S1 & S2; but the coils S1 & S2 are so wound that the induction of P1 on S1 neutralises the induction of P2 on S2; and no current passes in the secondary circuit, hence no sound is heard in the telephone. When, however, this balance of induction is upset by bringing a piece of metal--say, a coin--near one or other of the coils S1 or S2, a sound will be heard in the telephone.
The induction balance has been used as a "Sonometer" for measuring the sense of hearing, and also for telling base coins. The writer devised a form of it for "divining" the presence of gold and metallic ores which has been applied by Captain M'Evoy in his "submarine detector" for exploring the sea bottom for lost anchors and sunken treasure. When President Garfield was shot, the position of the bullet was ascertained by a similar arrangement.
The microphone as a means of magnifying feeble sounds has been employed for localising the leaks in water pipes and in medical examinations. Some years ago it saved a Russian lady from premature burial by rendering the faint beating of her heart audible.
Edison's electric pen is useful in copying letters. It works by puncturing a row of minute holes along the lines of the writing, and thus producing a stencil plate, which, when placed over a clean sheet of paper and brushed with ink, gives a duplicate of the writing by the ink penetrating the holes to the paper below. The pen, consisting of a hollow stem in which a fine needle actuated by the armature of a small electromagnet plies rapidly up and down and pierces the paper. The current is derived from a small battery, and an inking roller like that used in printing serves to apply the ink.
In 1878 Mr. Edison announced his invention of a machine for the storage and reproduction of speech, and the announcement was received with a good deal of incredulity, notwithstanding the partial success of Faber and others in devising mechanical articulators. The simplicity of Edison's invention when it was seen and heard elicited much admiration, and although his first instrument was obviously imperfect, it was nevertheless regarded as the germ of something better. If the words spoken into the instrument were heard in the first place, the likeness of the reproduction was found to be unmistakable. Indeed, so faithful was the replica, that a member of the Academy of Sciences, Paris, stoutly maintained that it was due to ventriloquism or some other trickery. It was evident, however, that before the phonograph could become a practical instrument, further improvements in the nicety of its articulation were required. The introduction of the electric light diverted Mr. Edison from the task of improving it, although he does not seem to have lost faith in his pet invention. During the next ten years he accumulated a large fortune, and was the principal means of introducing both electric light and power to the world at large. This done, however, he returned to his earlier love, and has at length succeeded in perfecting it so as to redeem his past promises and fulfill his hopes regarding it.
The old instrument consisted, as is well known, of a vibrating tympan or drum, from the centre of which projected a steel point or stylus, in such a manner that on speaking to the tympan its vibrations would urge the stylus to dig into a sheet of tinfoil moving past its point. The foil was supported on a grooved barrel, so that the hollow of the groove behind it permitted the foil to give under the point of the stylus, and take a corrugated or wavy surface corresponding to the vibrations of the speech. Thus recorded on a yielding but somewhat stiff material, these undulations could be preserved, and at a future time made to deflect the point of a similar stylus, and set a corresponding diaphragm or tympan into vibration, so as to give out the original sounds, or an imitation of them.
Tinfoil, however, is not a very satisfactory material on which to receive the vibrations in the first place. It does not precisely respond to the movements of the marking stylus in taking the impression, and does not guide the receiving stylus sufficiently well in reproducing sounds. Mr. Edison has therefore adopted wax in preference to it; and instead of tinfoil spread on a grooved support, he now employs a cylinder of wax to take the print of the vibrations. Moreover, he no longer uses the same kind of diaphragm to print and receive the sounds, but employs a more delicate one for receiving them. The marking cylinder is now kept in motion by an electric motor, instead of by hand-turning, as in the earlier instrument.
The new phonograph is about the size of an ordinary sewing machine, and is of exquisite workmanship, the performance depending to a great extent on the perfection and fitness of the mechanism. It consists of a horizontal spindle, carrying at one end the wax cylinder, on which the sonorous vibrations are to be imprinted. Over the cylinder is supported a diaphragm or tympan, provided with a conical mouthpiece for speaking into. Under the tympan there is a delicate needle or stylus, with its point projecting from the centre of the tympan downwards to the surface of the wax cylinder, so that when a person speaks into the mouthpiece, the voice vibrates the tympan and drives the point of the stylus down into the wax, making an imprint more or less deep in accordance with the vibrations of the voice. The cylinder is kept revolving in a spiral path, at a uniform speed, by means of an electric motor, fitted with a sensitive regulator and situated at the base of the machine. The result is that a delicate and ridgy trace is cut in the surface of wax along a spiral line. This is the sound record, and by substituting a finer tympan for the one used in producing it, the ridges and inequalities of the trace can be made to agitate a light stylus resting on them, and cause it to set the delicate tympan into vibrations corresponding very accurately to those of the original sounds. The tympan employed for receiving is made of gold-beater's skin, having a stud at its centre and a springy stylus of steel wire. The sounds emitted by this device are almost a whisper as compared to the original ones, but they are faithful in articulation, which is the main object, and they are conveyed to the ear by means of flexible hearing-tubes.
These tympans are interchangeable at will, and the arm which carries them is also provided with a turning tool for smoothing the wax cylinder prior to its receiving the print. The cylinders are made of different sizes, from 1 to 8 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. The former has a storage capacity of 200 words. The next in size has twice that, or 400 words, and so on. Mr. Edison states that four of the large 8-inch cylinders can record all "Nicholas Nickleby," which could therefore be automatically read to a private invalid or to a number of patients in a hospital simultaneously, by means of a bunch of hearing-tubes. The cylinders can be readily posted like letters, and made to deliver their contents viva voce in a duplicate phonograph, every tone and expression of the writer being rendered with more or less fidelity. The phonograph has proved serviceable in recording the languages and dialects of vanishing races, as well as in teaching pronunciation.
A device for lighting gas by the electric spark consists of a flat vulcanite box, containing the apparatus which generates the electricity, and a stem or pointer, which applies the spark to the gas jet. The generator consists of a small "influence" machine, which is started by pressing the thumb- key on the side of the box. The rotation of a disc inside the box produces a supply of static electricity, which passes in a stream of sparks between two contact-points in the open end of the stem. The latter is tubular, and contains a wire insulated from the metal of the tube, and forming with the tube the circuit for the electric discharge. The handle enables the contrivance to be readily applied. The apparatus is one of the few successful practical applications of static electricity.
It was known to the ancients that a fish called a torpedo existed in the Mediterranean which was capable of administering a shock to persons and benumbing them. The torpedo, or "electric ray," is found in the Atlantic as well as the Mediterranean, and is allied to the skate. It has an electric organ composed of 800 or 1000 polygonal cells in its head, and the discharge, which appears to be a vibratory current, passes from the back or positive pole to the belly or negative pole through the water. The gymotus, or Surinam eel, which attains a length of five or six feet, has an electric organ from head to tail, and can give a shock sufficient to kill a man. Humboldt has left a vivid picture of the frantic struggles of wild horses driven by the Indians of Venezuela into the ponds of the savannahs infested by these eels, in order to make them discharge their thunderbolts and be readily caught.
Other fishes--the silurus, malapterurus, and so on--are likewise endowed with electric batteries for stunning and capturing their prey. The action of the organs is still a mystery, as, indeed, is the whole subject of animal electricity. Nobili and Matteucci discovered that feeble currents are generated by the excitation of the nerves and the contraction of the muscles in the human subject.
The gloom of January, 1896, with its war and rumours of war, was, at all events, relieved by a single bright spot. Electricity has surprised the world with a new marvel, which confirms her title to be regarded as the most miraculous of all the sciences. Within the past twenty years she has given us the telephone of Bell, enabling London to speak with Paris, and Chicago with New York; the microphone of Hughes, which makes the tread of a fly sound like the "tramp of an elephant," as Lord Kelvin has said; the phonograph of Edison, in which we can hear again the voices of the dead; the electric light which glows without air and underwater, electric heat without fire, electric power without fuel, and a great deal more beside. To these triumphs we must now add a means of photographing unseen objects, such as the bony skeletons in the living body, and so revealing the invisible.
In the early days of electricity it was found that when an electric spark from a frictional machine was sent through a glass bulb from which the air had been sucked by an air pump, a cloudy light filled the bulb, which was therefore called an "electric egg". Hittorf and others improved on this effect by employing the spark from an induction coil and large tubes, highly exhausted of air, or containing a rare infusion of other gases, such as hydrogen. By this means beautiful glows of various colours, resembling the tender hues of the tropical sky, or the fleeting tints of the aurora borealis, were produced, and have become familiar to us in the well-known Geissler tubes.
Crookes, the celebrated English chemist, went still further, and by exhausting the bulbs with an improved Sprengel air-pump, obtained an extremely high vacuum, which gave remarkable effects. The diffused glow or cloudy light of the tube now shrank into a single stream, which joined the sparking points inserted through the ends of the tube as with a luminous thread A magnet held near the tube bent the streamer from its course; and there was a dark space or gap in it near the negative point or cathode, from which proceeded invisible rays, having the property of impressing a photographic plate, and of rendering matter in general on which they impinged phosphorescent, and, in course of time, red-hot. Where they strike on the glass of the tube it is seen to glow with a green or bluish phosphorescence, and it will ultimately soften with heat.
These are the famous "cathode rays" of which we have recently heard so much. Apparently they cannot be produced except in a very high vacuum, where the pressure of the air is about 1-100th millionth of an atmosphere, or that which it is some 90 or 100 miles above the earth. Mr Crookes regards them as a stream of airy particles electrified by contact with the cathode or negative discharging point, and repelled from it in straight lines. The rarity of the air in the tube enables these particles to keep their line without being jostled by the other particles of air in the tube. A molecular bombardment from the cathode is, in his opinion, going on, and when the shots, that is to say, the molecules of air, strike the wall of the tube, or any other body within the tube, the shock gives rise to phosphorescence or fluorescence and to heat. This, in brief, is the celebrated hypothesis of "radiant matter," which has been supported in the United Kingdom by champions such as Lord Kelvin, Sir Gabriel Stokes, and Professor Fitzgerald, but questioned abroad by Goldstem, Jaumann, Wiedemann, Ebert, and others.
Lenard, a young Hungarian, pupil of the illustrious Heinrich Hertz, was the first to inflict a serious blow on the hypothesis, by showing that the cathode rays could exist outside the tube in air at ordinary pressure. Hertz had found that a thin foil of aluminium was penetrated by the rays, and Lenard made a tube having a "window" of aluminium, through which the rays darted into the open air. Their path could be traced by the bluish phosphorescence which they excited in the air, and he succeeded in getting them to penetrate a thin metal box and take a photograph inside it. But if the rays are a stream of radiant matter which can only exist in a high vacuum, how can they survive in air at ordinary pressure? Lenard's experiments certainly favour the hypothesis of their being waves in the luminiferous ether.
Professor Rontgen, of Wirzburg, profiting by Lenard's results, accidentally discovered that the rays coming from a Crookes tube, through the glass itself, could photograph the bones in the living hand, coins inside a purse, and other objects covered up or hid in the dark. Some bodies, such as flesh, paper, wood, ebonite, or vulcanised fibre, thin sheets of metal, and so on, are more or less transparent, and others, such as bones, carbon, quartz, thick plates of metal, are more or less opaque to the rays. The human hand, for example, consisting of flesh and bones, allows the rays to pass easily through the flesh, but not through the bones. Consequently, when it is interposed between the rays and a photographic plate, the skeleton inside is photographed on the plate. A lead pencil photographed in this way shows only the black lead, and a razor with a horn handle only the blade.
Thanks to the courtesy of Mr. A. A. Campbell Swinton, of the firm of Swinton & Stanton, the well-known electrical engineers, of Victoria Street, Westminster, a skilful experimentalist, who was the first to turn to the subject in England, I have witnessed the taking of these "shadow photographs," as they are called, somewhat erroneously, for "radiographs" or "cryptographs" would be a better word, and shall briefly describe his method. Rontgen employs an induction coil insulated in oil to excite the Crookes tube and yield the rays, but Mr. Swinton uses a "high frequency current," obtained from apparatus similar to that of Tesla, namely, a high frequency induction coil insulated by means of oil and excited by the continuous discharge of twelve half-gallon Leyden jars charged by an alternating current at a pressure of 20,000 volts produced by an ordinary large induction coil sparking across its high pressure terminals.
A vacuum bulb connected between the discharge terminals of the high frequency coil, was illuminated with a pink glow, which streamed from the negative to the positive pole--that is to say, the cathode to the anode, and the glass became luminous with bluish phosphorescence and greenish fluorescence. Immediately under the bulb was placed my naked hand resting on a photographic slide containing a sensitive bromide plate covered with a plate of vulcanised fibre. An exposure of five or ten minutes is sufficient to give a good picture of the bones.
It has been found that the immediate source of the rays is the fluorescence and phosphorescence of the glass, and they are more effective when the fluorescence is greenish-yellow or canary colour. Certain salts--for example, the sulphates of zinc and of calcium, barium platino-cyanide, tungstate of calcium, and the double sulphate of uranium and potassium--are more active than glass, and even emit the rays after exposure to ordinary light, if not also in the dark.
Salvioni of Perugia has invented a "cryptoscope," which enables us to see the hidden object without the aid of photography by allowing the rays to fall on a plate coated with one of these phosphorescent substances. Already the new method has been applied by doctors in examining malformations and diseases of the bones or internal organs, and in localising and extracting bullets, needles, or other foreign matters in the body. There is little doubt that it will be very useful as an adjunct to hospitals, especially in warfare, and, if the apparatus can be reduced in size, it will be employed by ordinary practitioners. It has also been used to photograph the skeleton of a mummy, and to detect true from artificial gems. However, one cannot now easily predict its future value, and applications will be found out one after another as time goes on.
The balls are electrified by connecting them to the well-known instrument called an induction coil, sometimes used by physicians to administer gentle shocks to invalids.
One of the earliest notable uses of the electric furnace in a large electro-chemical industry was for the production of carborundum, a carbide of silicon, which is remarkably useful as an abrasive, being available in the manufacture of grinding stones and other like purposes to replace emery and corundum. It is produced by the use of a simple electric furnace of the resistance type, where coke, sand, and sawdust are heated to a temperature of between 2000 degrees and 3000 degrees C. The chemical reaction involves the production of carbon monoxide, and gives a carbide of silicon, a crystalline solid which has the excellent abrasive properties mentioned. The manufacture was first started by its inventor, E. G. Acheson, about 1891 on a small scale, and in the following year 1,000 pounds of the material were produced at the Niagara Falls works. Within fifteen years its output had increased to well over six million pounds.
One of the most interesting of the many electro-chemical processes is the heating of lime and coke in the electric furnace so as to obtain a product in the form of calcium carbide, which, on solution in water, forms acetylene gas, a useful and valuable illuminant. This process dates from 1893 when T. L. Willson in the United States first started its manufacture on a large scale, and the great electrochemist, Henri Moissan, about the same time independently invented a similar process as a result of his notable work with the electric furnace. The process involves merely a transformation at a high temperature, a portion of the carbon in the form of coke, uniting with pulverized lime to give the calcium carbide or CaC2. Now this material, when water is added to it, decomposes, and acetylene or C2H2 is formed, which is a gas of high illuminating value as the carbon separates and glows brightly after being heated to incandescence in the flame.