Sir: In a recently published lecture, Mr. Meldola seems to call in question the existence of allotropic silver. This opinion does not appear, however, to be based on any adequate study of the subject, but to be somewhat conjectural in its nature. No experimental support of any sort is given, and the only argument offered (if such it can be called) is that this altered form of silver is analogous to that of metals whose properties have been greatly changed by being alloyed with small quantities of other metals. Does, then, Mr. Meldola suppose that a silver alloy can be formed by precipitating silver in the presence of another metal from an aqueous solution, or that one can argue from alloys, which are solutions, to molecular compounds or lakes? Moreover, he has overlooked the fact that allotropic silver can be obtained in the absence of any metal with which silver is capable of combining, as in the case of its formation by the action of soda and dextrine. Silver cannot be alloyed with sodium.
Mr. Meldola cites Prange as having shown that allotropic silver obtained with the aid of ferrous citrate contains traces of iron, a fact which was published by me several years earlier, with an analytical determination of the amount of iron found. Mr. Prange repeated and confirmed this fact of the presence of iron (in this particular case), and my other observations generally, and was fully convinced of the existence of both soluble and insoluble allotropic silver. Mr. Meldola’s quotation of Mr. Prange would not convey this impression to the reader.
Of the many forms of allotropic silver, two of the best marked are the blue and the yellow.
Blue allotropic silver is formed in many reactions with the aid of many wholly different reagents. To suppose that each of these many substances is capable of uniting in minute quantity with silver to produce in all cases an identical result, the same product with identical color and properties, would be an absurdity.
Gold-colored allotropic silver in thin films is converted by the slightest pressure to normal silver. A glass rod drawn over it with a gentle pressure leaves a gray line behind it of ordinary silver. If the film is then plunged into solution of potassium ferricyanide it becomes red or blue, while the lines traced show by their different reaction that they consist of ordinary silver. Heat, electricity, and contact with strong acids produce a similar change to ordinary gray silver.
These reactions afford the clearest proof that the silver is in an allotropic form. To account for them on suppositions like Mr. Meldola’s would involve an exceedingly forced interpretation, such as no one who carefully repeated my work could possibly entertain.
I am, etc.,
M. CAREY LEA.
Philadelphia, October 22, 1891.
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