To determine, therefore, upon this last alternative, he performed the following experiment:
A block of ice, having a small channel cut around its upper edge, was placed under the receiver of an air-pump. The channel was filled with water, and upon the block, though not in contact with the water, was also placed a clock-work so contrived that one of the external wheels of its machinery came in contact with a thin metal plate. By the friction between these surfaces a considerable amount of heat could be produced, which might be made to melt wax, tallow, or any similar substance fusible at the temperature which could be thus produced.
The receiver, previously filled with carbonic-acid gas, was next exhausted as completely as possible by the air-pump and absorption by caustic potash; upon then setting the machine to work the wax was melted rapidly, and the temperature of the whole apparatus increased by more than 1° Fahr., thus proving the excitation of heat under the conditions imposed.
Consistently with the remaining supposition—the third—it was then only to be inferred that caloric had been collected from the bodies in contact. Neglecting, however, the vapor of water which formed the rarefied atmosphere within the receiver, the only other body in contact with the apparatus was the ice. But against the assumption of this latter having furnished any heat, Davy here drew attention to the water still remaining liquid in the canal, and which presumably would have been frozen had the ice parted with any heat.
It is easy to perceive that such a course of reasoning was neither exhaustive with respect to the non-existence of caloric, nor conclusive as to the dynamic character of heat. For, had he even been successful in demolishing the doctrine of caloric, the simple refutation of one physical hypothesis could never have been construed into more than an increase in probability of all those opposed to it; and in this instance, perhaps no considerations would have been accepted as conclusive by the materialists, which, failing to experimentally establish the true nature of heat, should still have left their favorite notion open to any modification, however artificial, which might reconcile it in the least degree with facts which would be doubted and distorted in the interest of these preconceived opinions.
Heat being only a particular phase of energy, it was necessary and sufficient to show, as done by Rumford, with respect to its frictional excitation, that its production depended only on the expenditure of energy—implied in its inexhaustibility—and always in the same degree, as he proved by special determinations. It was the subsequent
- Professors Tait and Balfour Stewart are authority for the statement that "Rumford pointed out other methods to be employed in determining the amount of heat produced by the expenditure of mechanical power, instancing particularly the agitation of water or other liquids, as in churning."—(Tait's "Historical Sketch," p. 7; Stewart's "Elementary Treatise on Heat," p. 307.)