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The minor Discoveries and Inventions of Newton-His Researches on
Heat-On Fire and Flame-On Elective Attraction on the Structure of Bodies-His supposed Attachment to Alchymy-His Hypothesis respecting Ether as the Cause of Light and Gravity--On the Excitation of Electricity in Glass- His Reflecting Sextant invented before 1700—His Reflecting Microscope-His Prismatic Reflector as a Substitute for the small Speculum of Reflecting Telescopes-His Method of varying the Magnifying Power of Newtonian Telescopes
His Experiments on Impressions on the Retina
In the preceding chapters we have given an account of the principal labours of Sir Isaac Newton; but there still remain to be noticed several of his minor discoveries and inventions, which could not properly be introduced under any general head..
The most important of these, perhaps, are his chymical researches, which he seems to have pursued with more or less diligence from the time when he first witnessed the practical operations of chymistry during his residence at the apothecary's at Grantham. His first chymical experiments were probably made on the alloys of metals, for the purpose of obtaining a good metallic composition for the specula of reflecting telescopes. In his paper on thin plates he treats of the combinations of solids and fluids; but he enters more largely on these and other subjects in the queries published at the end of his Optics.
One of his most important chymical papers is his Tabula quantitatum et graduum caloris, which was published in the Philosophical Transactions. This short paper contains a comparative scale of temperature from that of melting ice to that of a small kitchen coal-fire. The following are the principal points of the scale, the intermediate
degrees of heat having been determined with great care.
Degrees of Heat.
0 Freezing point of water.
The first column of this table contains the degrees of heat in arithmetical progression, and the second in geometrical progression,—the second degree being twice as great as the first, and so on. It is obvious from this table, that the heat at which equal parts of tin and bismuth melt is four times greater than that of blood-heat, the heat of melting lead eight times greater, and the heat of a small coal-fire sixteen times greater.
This table was constructed by the help of a thermometer, and of red-hot iron. By the former he measured all heats as far as that of melting tin; and by the latter he measured all the higher heats. For the heat which heated iron loses in a given time is as the total heat of the iron; and therefore, if the times of cooling are taken equal, the heats will be in a geometrical progression, and may therefore be easily found by a table of logarithms.
He found by a thermometer constructed with linseed oil, that if the oil, when the thermometer was placed in melting snow, occupied a space of 1000 parts, the same oil, rarefied with one degree of heat, or that of the human body, occupied a space of 10256 ; in the heat of water beginning to boil, a space of 10705; in the heat of water boiling violently, 10725; in the heat of melted tin beginning to cool, and putting on the consistency of an amalgam, 11516, and when the tin had become solid, 11496. Hence the oil was rarefied in the ratio of 40 to 39 by the heat of the human body; of 15 to 14 by the heat of boiling water; of 15 to 13 in the heat of melting tin beginning to solidify; and of 23 to 20 in the same tin when solid. The rarefaction of air was, with the same heat, ten times greater than that of oil, and the rarefaction of oil fifteen times greater than that of spirit of wine. By making the heats of oil proportional to its rarefaction, and by calling the heat of the human body 12 parts, we obtain the heat of water beginning to boil, 33; of water boiling violently, 34; of melted tin beginning to solidify, 72; and of the same become solid, 70.
Sir Isaac then heated a sufficiently thick piece of iron till it was red-hot; and having fixed it in a cold place, where the wind blew uniformly, he put upon it small pieces of different metals and other fusible bodies, and noted the times of cooling, till all the particles, having lost their fluidity, grew cold, and the heat of the iron was equal to that of the human body. Then, by assuming that the excesses of the heats of the iron and of the solidified particles of metal above the heat of the atmosphere, were in geometrical progression when the times were in arithmetical progression, all the heats were obtained. The iron was placed in a current of air, in order that the air heated by the iron might always be carried away by the wind, and that cold air might replace it with a uniform motion; for thus equal parts of the air were heated in equal times, and received a heat proportional to that of the iron. But the heats thus found had the same ratio to one another with the heats found by the thermometer; and hence he was right in assuming that the rarefactions of the oil were proportional to its heats.
Another short chymical paper by Sir Isaac Newton has been published by Dr. Horsley. It is enti
tled De Natura Acidorum, but is principally occupied with a number of brief opinions on chymical subjects. This paper was written later than 1687, as it bears a reference to the Principia; and the most important facts which it contains seem to have been more distinctly reproduced in the queries at the end of the Optics.
The most important of these queries relate to fire, flame, and electric attractions, and as they were revised in the year 1716 and 1717, they may be regarded as containing the most matured opinions of their author. Fire he regards as a body heated so hot as to emit light copiously, and flame as a vapour, fume, or exhalation heated so hot as to shine. In his long query on elective attractions, he considers the small particles of bodies as acting upon one another at distances so minute as to escape observation. When salt of tartar deliquesces, he supposes that this arises from an attraction between the saline particles and the aqueous particles held in solution in the atmosphere, and to the same attraction he ascribes it that the water will not distil from the salt of tartar without great heat. For the same reason sulphuric acid attracts water powerfully, and parts with it with great difficulty. When this attractive force becomes very powerful, as in the union between sulphuric acid and water, so as to make the particles “coalesce with violence,” and rush towards one another with an accelerated motion, heat is produced by the mixture of the two fluids. In like manner, he explains the production of flame from the mixture of cold fluids,—the action of fulminating powders,—the combination of iron filings with sulphur,-and all the other chymical phenomena of precipitation, combination, solution, and crystallization, and the mechanical phenomena of cohesion and capillary attraction. He ascribes hot springs, volcanoes, fire-damps, mineral coruscations, earthquakes, hot suffocating
exhalations, hurricanes, lightning, thunder, fiery meteors, subterraneous explosions, land-slips, ebullitions of the sea, and waterspouts, to sulphureous steams abounding in the bowels of the earth, and fermenting with minerals, or escaping into the atmosphere, where they ferment with acid vapours fitted to promote fermentation.
In explaining the structure of solid bodies, he is of opinion, “that the smallest particles of matter may cohere by the strongest attractions, and compose bigger particles of weaker virtue; and many of these may cohere and compose bigger particles whose virtue is still weaker; and so on for divers successions, until the progression end in the biggest particles, on which the operations in chymistry and the colours of natural bodies depend, and which, by adhering, compose bodies of a sensible magnitude. If the body is compact, and bends or yields inward to pression, without any sliding of its parts, it is hard and elastic, returning to its figure with a force rising from the mutual attraction of its parts. If the parts slide upon one another, the body is malleable or soft. If they slip easily, and are of a fit size to be agitated by heat, and the heat is big enough to keep them in agitation, the body is fluid; and if it be apt to stick to things, it is humid; and the drops of every fluid affect a round figure, by the mutual attraction of their parts, as the globe of the earth and sea affects a round figure, by the mutual attraction of its parts, by gravity.”
Sir Isaac then supposes, that, as the attractive force of bodies can reach but to a small distance from them, “ a repulsive virtue ought to succeed;" and he considers such a virtue as following from the reflection of the rays of light, the rays being repelled without the immediate contact of the reflecting body, and also from the emission of light, the ray, as soon as it is shaken off from a shining body by the vibrating motion of the parts of the body, getting beyond the