A TREATISE ON PNEUMATICS. THE investigation of the properties of Atmospheric Air having been deemed worthy of close attention by the ancient philosophers and mechanists, the former deduciug them theoretically, the latter from the action of sensible bodies, we also have thought proper to arrange in order what has been handed down by former writers, and to add thereto our own discoveries : a task from which much advantage will result to those who shall hereafter devote themselves to the study of mathematics. We are further led to write this work from the consideration that it is fitting that the treatment of this subject should correspond with the method given by us in our treatise, in four books, on water-clocks. For, by the union of air, earth, fire and water, and the concurrence of three, or four, elementary principles, various combinations are effected, some of which supply the most pressing wants of human life, while others produce amazement and alarm.
But, before proceeding to our proper subject, we must treat of the vacuum. Some assert that there is absolutely no vacuum; others that, while no continuous vacuum is exhibited in nature, it is to be found distributed in minute portions through air, water, fire and all other substances and this latter opinion, which we will presently demonstrate to be true from sensible phenomena, we adopt. Vessels which seem to most men empty are not empty, as they suppose, but full of air. Now the air, as those who have treated of physics are agreed, is composed of particles minute and light, and for the most part invisible. If, then, we pour water into an apparently empty vessel, air will leave the vessel proportioned in quantity to the water which enters it. This may be seen from the following experiment. Let the vessel which seems to be empty be inverted, and, being carefully kept upright, pressed down into water ; the water will not enter it even though it, it be entirely immersed : so that it is manifest that the air, being matter, and havingV itself filled all the space in the vessel, does not allow the water to enter. Now, if we bore the bottom of the vessel, the water will enter through the mouth, but the air will escape through the hole. Again, if, before perforating the bottom, we raise the vessel vertically, and turn it up, we shall find the inner surface of the vessel entirely free from moisture, exactly as it was before immersion. Hence it must be assumed that the air is matter. The air when set in motion becomes wind, (for wind is nothing else but air in motion), and if, when the bottom of the vessel has been pierced and the water is entering, we place the hand over the hole, we shall feel the wind escaping from the vessel ; and this is nothing else but the air which is being driven out by the water. It is not then to be supposed that there exists in nature a distinct and continuous vacuum, but that it is distributed in small measures through air and liquid and all other bodies. Adamant alone might be thought not to partake of this quality, as it does not admit of fusion or fracture, and, when beaten against anvils or hammers, buries itself in them entire. This peculiarity however is due to its excessive density for the particles of fire, being coarser than the void spaces in the stone, do not pass through them, but only touch the outer surface; consequently, as they do not penetrate into this, as into other substances, no heat results. The particles of the air are in contact with each other, yet they do not fit closely in every part, but void spaces are left between them, as in the sand on the sea shore: the grains of sand must be imagined to correspond to the particles of air, and the air between the grains of sand to the void spaces between the particles of air. Hence, when any force is applied to it, the air is compressed, and, contrary to its nature, falls into the vacant spaces from the pressure exerted on its particles: but when the force is withdrawn, the air returns again to its former position from the elasticity of its particles, as is the ease with horn shavings and sponge, which, when compressed and set free again, return to the same position and exhibit the same bulk. Similarly, if from the application of force the particles of air be divided and a vacuum be produced larger than is natural, the particles unite again afterwards; for bodies will have a rapid motion through a vacuum, where there is nothing to obstruct or repel them, until they are in contact. Thus, if a light vessel with a narrow mouth be taken and applied to the lips, and the air he sucked out and discharged, the vessel will be suspended from the lips, the vacuum drawing the flesh towards it that the exhausted space may he filled. It is manifest from this that there was a continuous vacuum in the vessel. The same may be shown by means of the egg-shaped cups used by physicians, which are of glass,* and have narrow mouths. When they wish to fill these with liquid, after sucking out the contained air, they place the finger on the vessel's mouth and invert them into the liquid ; then, the finger being withdrawn, the water is drawn up into the exhausted space, though the upward motion is against its nature. Very similar is the operation of cupping-glasses, which, when applied to the body, not only do not fall though of considerable weight but even draw the contiguous matter toward them through the apertures of the body. The explanation is that the fire placed in them consumes and rarefies the air they contain, just as other substances, water, air or earth are consumed and pass over into more subtle substances.
* " Glass working was practised by the ancient Egyptians at a very early period of their national existence. Sir J. G. Wilkinson, in his able work on the Manners and Customs of the ancient Egyptians, has adduced three distinct proofs that the art of Glass working was practised in Egypt before the Exodus of the children of Israel from that land, three thousand five hundred years ago. At Beni Hassan are two paintings representing Glass blowers at work, and from the hieroglyphics accompanying them they are shown to have been executed in the reign of the first Osirtasen at the early date above mentioned. Such was the skill of the Egyptians in glass making. that they successively counterfeited the Amethyst and other precious stones worn as ornaments for the person. Winckelmann, a high authority, is of opinion that glass was employed more frequently in ancient than in modern times; it was used by the Egyptians even for coffins; (within 1847 a process was patented in England for making Coffins of Glass) they also employed it not only for drinking vessels but for Mosaic work, the figures of deities, and sacred emblems, in which they attained excellent workmanship, and surprising brilliancy of color.
"It is certain that the glass houses of Alexandria were celebrated among the ancients for the skill and ingenuity of their workmen; and from thence the Romans, who did not acquire a knowledge of the art till a later period, procured all their Glass ware. Most of the large cinerary vases in the British Museum, found in Roman barrows which contained bones and bone-ashes, are, probably, the production of extensive Egyptian or Roman works : they are large, and of excellent form and workmanship: but the Glass is somewhat impure, of a greenish tint, has numerous globules and striae, and is not unlike the modern common crown or sheet glass in quality. We have incidentally mentioned the discovery of Glass at Pompeii. Glass vessels have also been found among the ruins of Herculaneum : and it appears that Glass was used for admitting light to dwellings in Pompeii. Mr. Auldjo, of Noel house, Kensington, 'who resided several years at Naples, states, that he has seen glass in the window-frames of some of the houses of Pompeii. Mr. Roach Smith has a specimen of ancient flat Glass such as he believes to have been used by the Romans, or their predecessors for windows.- Curiosities of Glass making by Apsley Pallat, London, 1849.
Mr. Layard in his interesting work on Nineveb, 1849, London, in Vol.1, page 342, says: I took the instrument, and, working cautiously myself, was rewarded by the discovery of two small vases, one in alabaster, the other in glass (both in the most perfect preservation) of elegant shape, and admirable workmanship. Each bore the name and title of the Khorsabad King, written in two different ways, as in the inscriptions of Khorsabad."
That something is consumed by the action of fire is manifest from coal-cinders, which, preserving the same bulk as they had before combustion, or nearly so, differ very much in weight. The consumed parts pass away with the smoke into a substance of fire or air or earth the subtlest parts pass into the highest region where fire is ; the parts some-what coarser than these into air, and those coarser still, having been borne with the others a certain space by the current, descend again into the lower regions and mingle with earthy substances. Water also, when consumed by the action of fire, is transformed into air; for the vapour arising from cauldrons placed upon flames is nothing but the evaporation from the liquid passing into air. That fire, then, dissolves and transforms all bodies grosser than itself is evident from the above facts. Again, in the exhalations that rise from the earth the grosser kinds of matter are changed into subtler substances; for dew is sent up from the evaporation of the water contained in the earth by exhalation; and this exhalation is produced by some igneous substance, when the sun is under the earth and warms the ground below, especially if the soil be sulphureous or bituminous, and the ground thus warmed increases the exhalation. The warm springs found in the earth are due to the same cause. The lighter portions of the dew, then, pass into air ; the grosser, after being borne upwards for a certain space from the force of the exhalation, when this has cooled at the return of the sun, descend again to the surface.
Winds are produced from excessive exhalation, whereby the air is disturbed and rarefied, and sets in motion the air in immediate contact with it. This movement of the air, however, is not everywhere of uniform velocity: it is more violent in the neighbourhood of the exhalation, where the motion began; fainter at a greater distance from it : just as heavy bodies, when rising, move more rapidly in the lower region where the propelling force is, and more slowly in the higher ; and when the force which originally propelled them no longer acts upon them, they return to their natural position, that is, to the surface of the earth. If the propelling force continued to urge them onward with equal velocity, they would never have stopped, but now the force gradually ceases, being as it were expended, and the speed of the motion ceases with it.
Water, again, is transformed into an earthy substance: if we pour water into an earthy and hollow place, after a short time tile water disappears, being absorbed by the earthy substance, so that it mingles with, and is actually transformed into, earth. And if any one says that it is not transformed or absorbed by the earth, but is drawn out by heat, either of the sun or some other body, He shall be shewn to be mistaken : for if the same water be put into a vessel of glass, or bronze, or any other solid material, and placed in the sun, for a considerable time it is not diminished except in a very small degree. Water, therefore, is transformed into an earthy substance : indeed, slime and mud are transformations of water into earth.
Moreover, the more subtle substance is transformed into the grosser as in the case of the flame of a lamp dying out for want of oil,-we see it for a time borne upwards and, as it were, striving to reach its proper region, that is, the highest of all above the atmosphere, till, overpowered by the mass of intervening air, it no longer tends to its kindred place, but, as though mixed and interwoven with the particles of air, becomes air itself. The same may be observed with air. For, if a small vessel containing air and carefully closed be placed in water with the mouth uppermost, and then, the vessel being uncovered, the water be allowed to rush in, the air escapes from the vessel; but, being overpowered by the mass of water, it mingles with it again and is transformed so as to become water.
When, therefore, the air in the cupping glasses, being in like manner consumed and rarefied by fire, issues through the pores in the sides of the glass, the space within is exhausted and draws towards it the matter adjacent, of whatever kind it may be. But, if the cupping glass be slightly raised, the air will enter the exhausted space and no more matter will be drawn up.
They, then, who assert that there is absolutely no vacuum may invent many arguments on this subject, and perhaps seem to discourse most plausibly though they offer no tangible proof. If, however, it be shewn by an appeal to sensible phenomena that there is such a thing as a continuous vacuum, but artificially produced; that a vacuum exists also naturally, but scattered in minute portions; and that by compression bodies fill up these scattered vacua, those who bring forward such plausible arguments in this matter will no longer be able to make good their ground.
Provide a spherical vessel, of the thickness of metal plate so as not to be easily crushed, containing about 8 cotylae (2 quarts). When this has been tightly closed on every side, pierce a hole in it, and insert a siphon, or slender tube, of bronze, so as not to touch the part diametrically opposite to the point of perforation, that a passage may be left for water. The other end of the siphon must project about 3 fingers' breadth (2 in.) above the globe, and the circumference of the aperture through which the siphon is inserted must be closed with tin applied both to the siphon and to the outer surface of the globe, so that when it is desired to breathe through the siphon no air may possibly escape from the vessel. Let us watch the result. The globe, like other vessels commonly said to be empty, contains air, and as this air fills all the space within it and presses uniformly against the inner surface of the vessel, if there is no vacuum, as some suppose, we can neither introduce water nor more air, unless the air contained before make way for it ; and if by the application of force we make the attempt, the vessel, being full, will burst sooner than admit it. For the particles of air cannot be condensed, as there must in that case be interstices between them, by compression into which their bulk may become less; but this is not credible if there is no vacuum nor again, as the particles press against one another throughout their whole surface and likewise against the sides of the vessel, can they be pushed away so as to make room if there is no vacuum. Thus in no way can anything from without be introduced into the globe unless some portion of the previously contained air escape ; if, that is to say, the whole space is closely and uniformly filled, as the objectors suppose. And yet, if any one, inserting the siphon in his mouth, shall blow into the globe, he will introduce much wind without any of the previously contained air giving way. And, this being the uniform result, it is clearly shewn that a condensation takes place of the particles contained in the globe into the interspersed vacua. The condensation however is effected artificially by the forcible introduction of air. Now if, after blowing into the vessel, we bring the hand close to the mouth, and quickly cover the siphon with the finger, the air remains the whole time pent up in the globe ; and on the removal of the finger the introduced air will rush out again with a loud noise, being thrust out, as we stated, by the expansion of the original air which takes place from its elasticity. Again, if we draw out the air in the globe by suction through the siphon, it will follow abundantly, though no other substance take its place in the vessel, as has been said in the case of the egg. By this experiment it is completely proved that an accumulation of vacuum goes on in the globe; for the particles of air left behind cannot grow larger in the interval so as to occupy the space left by the particles driven out. For if they increase in magnitude when no foreign substance can be added, it must be supposed that this increase arises from expansion, which is equivalent to a re-arrangement of the particles through the production of a vacuum. But it is maintained that there is no vacuum; the particles therefore will not become larger, for it is not possible to imagine for them any other mode of increase. It is clear, then, from what has been said that certain void spaces are interspersed between the particles of the air, into which, when force is applied, they fall contrary to their natural action.
The air contained in the vessel inverted in water does not undergo much compression, for the compressing force is not considerable, seeing that water, in its own nature, possesses neither weight nor power of excessive pressure. Whence it is that, though divers to the bottom of the sea support an immense weight of water on their backs, respiration is not compelled by the water, though the air contained in their nostrils is extremely little. It is worth while here to examine what reason is given why those who dive deep, supporting on their backs an immense weight of water, are not crushed. Some say that it is because water is of uniform weight: but these give no reason why divers are not crushed by the water above. The true reason may be shewn as follows. Let us imagine the column of liquid which is directly over the surface of the object under pressure, (in immediate contact with which the water is,) to be a body of the same weight and form as the superincumbent liquid, and that this is so placed in the water that its under surface coincides with the surface of the body pressed, resting upon it in the same manner as the previously superincumbent liquid, with which it exactly corresponds. It is clear, then, that this body does not project above the liquid in which it is immersed, and will not sink beneath its surface. For Archimedes has shewn, in his work on 'Floating Bodies,' that bodies of equal weight with any liquid, when immersed in it, will neither project above nor sink beneath its surface : therefore they will not exert pressure on objects beneath. Again, such a body, if all objects which exert pressure from above be removed, remains in the same place; how then can a body which has no tendency downward exert pressure? Similarly, the liquid displaced by the body will not exert pressure on objects beneath; for, as regards rest and motion, the body in question does [not] differ from the liquid which occupies the same space.
Again, that void spaces exist may be seen from the following considerations: for, if there were not such spaces, neither light, nor heat nor any other material force could penetrate through water, or air, or any body whatever. How could the rays of the sun, for example, penetrate through water to the bottom of the vessel? If there were no pores in the fluid, and the rays thrust the water aside by force, the consequence would be that full vessels would overflow, which however does not take place. Again, if the rays thrust the water aside by force, it would not be found that some were reflected while others penetrated below; but now all those rays that impinge upon the particles of the water are driven back, as it were, and reflected, while those that come in contact with the void spaces, meeting with but few particles, penetrate to the bottom of the vessel. It is clear, too, that void spaces exist in water from this, that, when wine is poured into water, it is seen to spread itself through every part of the water, which it would not do if there were no vacua in the water. Again, one light traverses another; for, when several lamps are lightcd, all objects are brilliantly illuminated, the rays passing in every direction through each other. And indeed it is possible to penetrate through bronze, iron, and all other bodies, as is seen in the instance of the marine torpedo.
That a continuous vacuum can be artificially produced has been shown by the application of a light vessel to the mouth, and by the egg of physicians. With regard, then, to the nature of the vacuum, though other proofs exist, we deem those that have been given, and which are founded on sensible phenomena, to be sufficient. It may, therefore, be affirmed in this matter that every body is composed of minute particles, between which are empty spaces less than the particles of the body, (so that we erroneously say that there is no vacuum except by the application of force, and that every place is full either of air, or water, or some other substance), and, in proportion as any one of these particles recedes, some other follows it and fills the vacant space: that there is no continuous vacuum except by the application of some force: and again, that the absolute vacuum is never found, but is produced artificially.
These things having been clearly explained, let us treat of the theorems resulting from the combination of these principles; for, by means of them, many curious and astonishing kinds of motion may be discovered. After these preliminary considerations we will begin by treating of the bent siphon, which is most useful in many ways in Pneumatics.Section 1.