Familiar Letters on Chemistry eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 119 pages of information about Familiar Letters on Chemistry.
advantages which are now lost:  instead, therefore, of maintaining it at a great sacrifice, it would be more reasonable, more in accordance with true natural economy, to cultivate other and more valuable productions, and with them purchase sugar.  Not only would the state be the gainer, but every member of the community.  This argument does not apply, perhaps, to France and Bohemia, where the prices of fuel and of colonial sugar are very different to those in Germany.

The manufacture of gas for lighting, from coal, resin, and oils, stands with us on the same barren ground.

The price of the materials from which gas is manufactured in England bears a direct proportion to the price of corn:  there the cost of tallow and oil is twice as great as in Germany, but iron and coal are two-thirds cheaper; and even in England the manufacture of gas is only advantageous when the other products of the distillation of coal, the coke, &c., can be sold.

It would certainly be esteemed one of the greatest discoveries of the age if any one could succeed in condensing coal gas into a white, dry, solid, odourless substance, portable, and capable of being placed upon a candlestick, or burned in a lamp.  Wax, tallow, and oil, are combustible gases in a solid or fluid form, which offer many advantages for lighting, not possessed by gas:  they furnish, in well-constructed lamps, as much light, without requiring the expensive apparatus necessary for the combustion of gas, and they are generally more economical.  In large towns, or such establishments as hotels, where coke is in demand, and where losses in stolen tallow or oil must be considered, together with the labour of snuffing candles and cleaning lamps, the higher price of gas is compensated.  In places where gas can be manufactured from resin, oil of turpentine, and other cheap oils, as at Frankfort, this is advantageous so long as it is pursued on small scale only.  If large towns were lighted in the same manner, the materials would rise in price:  the whole amount at present produced would scarcely suffice for two such towns as Berlin and Munich.  But no just calculation can be made from the present prices of turpentine, resin, &c., which are not produced upon any large scale.

[Footnote 1:  Malter—­a measure containing several bushels, but varying in different countries.]

[Footnote 2:  Klafter—­a cord, a stack, measuring six feet every way.]


My dear Sir,

Until very recently it was supposed that the physical qualities of bodies, i.e. hardness, colour, density, transparency, &c., and still more their chemical properties, must depend upon the nature of their elements, or upon their composition.  It was tacitly received as a principle, that two bodies containing the same elements in the same proportion, must of necessity possess the same properties.  We could not imagine

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