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elements; consequently it should be possible to analyse it, i.e. separate it into its components, or to synthesize it, i.e. build it up from its components. In general, a compound has properties markedly different from those of the elements of which it is composed.

Laws of Chemical Combination.—A molecule may be defined as the smallest part of a substance which can exist alone; an atom as the smallest part of a substance which can exist in combination. The molecule of every compound must obviously contain at least two atoms, and generally the molecules of the elements are also polyatomic, the elements with monatomic molecules (at moderate temperatures) being mercury and the gases of the argon group. The laws of chemical combination are as follows:—

1. Law of Definite Proportions.—The same compound always contains the same elements combined together in the same mass proportion. Silver chloride, for example, in whatever manner it may be prepared, invariably consists of chlorine and silver in the proportions by weight of 35.45 parts of the former and 107.93 of the latter.

2. Law of Multiple Proportions.—When the same two elements combine together to form more than one compound, the different masses of one of the elements which unite with a constant mass of the other, bear a simple ratio to one another. Thus, 1 part by weight of hydrogen unites with 8 parts by weight of oxygen, forming water, and with 16 or 8 × 2 parts of oxygen, forming hydrogen peroxide. Again, in nitrous oxide we have a compound of 8 parts by weight of oxygen and 14 of nitrogen; in nitric oxide a compound of 16 or 8 × 2 parts of oxygen and 14 of nitrogen; in nitrous anhydride a compound of 24 or 8 × 3 parts of oxygen and 14 of nitrogen; in nitric peroxide a compound of 32 or 8 × 4 parts of oxygen and 14 of nitrogen; and lastly, in nitric anhydride a compound of 40 or 8 × 5 parts of oxygen and 14 of nitrogen.

3. Law of Reciprocal Proportions.—The masses of different elements which combine separately with one and the same mass of another element, are either the same as, or simple multiples of, the masses of these different elements which combine with each other. For instance, 35.45 parts of chlorine and 79.96 parts of bromine combine with 107.93 parts of silver; and when chlorine and bromine unite it is in the proportion of 35.45 parts of the former to 79.96 parts of the latter. Iodine unites with silver in the proportion of 126.97 parts to 107.93 parts of the latter, but it combines with chlorine in two proportions, viz. in the proportion of 126.97 parts either to 35.45 or to three times 35.45 parts of chlorine.

There is a fourth law of chemical combination which only applies to gases. This law states that:—gases combine with one another in simple proportions by volume, and the volume of the product (if gaseous) has a simple ratio to the volumes of the original mixtures; in other words, the densities of gases are simply related to their combining weights.

Nomenclature.—If a compound contains two atoms it is termed a binary compound, if three a ternary, if four a quaternary, and so on. Its systematic name is formed by replacing the last syllable of the electro-negative element by ide and prefixing the name of the other element. For example, compounds of oxygen are oxides, of chlorine, chlorides, and so on. If more than one compound be formed from the same two elements, the difference is shown by prefixing such words as mono-, di-, tri-, sesqui-, per-, sub-, &c., to the last part of the name, or the suffixes -ous and -ic may be appended to the name of the first element. For example take the oxides of nitrogen, N2O, NO, N2O3, NO2, N2O5; these are known respectively as nitrous oxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen trioxide, nitrogen peroxide and nitrogen pentoxide. The affixes -ous and sub- refer to the compounds containing more of the positive element, -ic and per- to those containing less.

An acid (q.v.) is a compound of hydrogen, which element can be replaced by metals, the hydrogen being liberated, giving substances named salts. An alkali or base is a substance which neutralizes an acid with the production of salts but with no evolution of hydrogen. A base may be regarded as water in which part of the hydrogen is replaced by a metal, or by a radical which behaves as a metal. (The term radical is given to a group of atoms which persist in chemical changes, behaving as if the group were an element; the commonest is the ammonium group, NH4, which forms salts similar to the salts of sodium and potassium.) If the acid contains no oxygen it is a hydracid, and its systematic name is formed from the prefix hydro- and the name of the other element or radical, the last syllable of which has been replaced by the termination -ic. For example, the acid formed by hydrogen and chlorine is termed hydrochloric acid (and sometimes hydrogen chloride). If an acid contains oxygen it is termed an oxyacid. The nomenclature of acids follows the same general lines as that for binary compounds. If one acid be known its name is formed by the termination -ic, e.g. carbonic acid; if two, the one containing the less amount of oxygen takes the termination -ous and the other the termination -ic, e.g. nitrous acid, HNO2, nitric acid, HNO3. If more than two be known, the one inferior in oxygen content has the prefix hypo- and the termination -ous, and the one superior in oxygen content has the prefix per- and the termination -ic. This is illustrated in the four oxyacids of chlorine, HClO, HClO2, HClO3, HClO4, which have the names hypochlorous, chlorous, chloric and perchloric acids. An acid is said to be monobasic, dibasic, tribasic, &c., according to the number of replaceable hydrogen atoms; thus HNO3 is monobasic, sulphuric acid H2SO4 dibasic, phosphoric acid H3PO4 tribasic.

An acid terminating in -ous forms a salt ending in -ite, and an oxyacid ending in -ic forms a salt ending in -ate. Thus the chlorine oxyacids enumerated above form salts named respectively hypochlorites, chlorites, chlorates and perchlorates. Salts formed from hydracids terminate in -ide, following the rule for binary compounds. An acid salt is one in which the whole amount of hydrogen has not been replaced by metal; a normal salt is one in which all the hydrogen has been replaced; and a basic salt is one in which part of the acid of the normal salt has been replaced by oxygen.

Chemical Formulae.—Opposite the name of each element in the second column of the above table, the symbol is given which is always employed to represent it. This symbol, however, not only represents the particular element, but a certain definite quantity of it. Thus, the letter H always stands for 1 atom or 1 part by weight of hydrogen, the letter N for 1 atom or 14 parts of nitrogen, and the symbol Cl for 1 atom or 35.5 parts of chlorine.[1] Compounds are in like manner represented by writing the symbols of their constituent elements side by side, and if more than one atom of each element be present, the number is indicated by a numeral placed on the right of the symbol of the element either below or above the line. Thus, hydrochloric acid is represented by the formula HCl, that is to say, it is a compound of an atom of hydrogen with an atom of chlorine, or of 1 part by weight of hydrogen with 35.5 parts by weight of chlorine; again, sulphuric acid is represented by the formula H2SO4, which is a statement that it consists of 2 atoms of hydrogen, 1 of sulphur, and 4 of oxygen, and consequently of certain relative weights of these elements. A figure placed on the right of a symbol only affects the symbol to which it is attached, but when figures are placed in front of several symbols all are affected by it, thus 2H2SO4 means H2SO4 taken twice.

The distribution of weight in chemical change is readily expressed in the form of equations by the aid of these symbols; the equation

2HCl + Zn = ZnCl2 + H2,

for example, is to be read as meaning that from 73 parts of hydrochloric acid and 65 parts of zinc, 136 parts of zinc chloride and 2 parts of hydrogen are produced. The + sign is invariably employed in this way either to express combination or action upon, the meaning usually attached to the use of the sign = being that from such and such bodies such and such other bodies are formed.

  1. Approximate values of the atomic weights are employed here.