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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/664

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

his hand up to his wrist, and took out some of the pitch as he would have done with a spoon*; the pitch, which was in actual contact with his skin, he wiped off with tow. To assure himself that there was no trickery, Dr. Davenport put his whole forefinger into the boiling pitch, and was able to move it about for some time before the heat became uncomfortable. The workman affirmed that, if any one put his hand when covered with a glove into the boiling liquid, he would be burned very badly. A fact related by Dr. Beckman, another physician, is referable to both the first and the second of the causes we have mentioned. A workman in the foundry at Auerst├Ądt, in 1765, for a small gift, took some melted copper in the hollow of his hand, showed it to the spectators, and then threw it against the wall. Then he rubbed the fingers of his calloused hand briskly together, put them under his armpits for a few instants, to make them sweat, as he said, passed them over a dish of melted copper as if he would skim it, and finished by moving his hand rapidly backward and forward in the liquid mass. Dr. Beckman perceived a strong smell of burned horn while this was going on, but the man's hand did not seem to be hurt.

In 1809 a Spaniard named Lionetto went through Europe performing still more wonderful feats. While he was at Naples he excited the curiosity of Professor Sementini, who made a study of him, and, having performed numerous experiments upon himself, has left us the most positive documents that we possess on the subject. Lionetto put a plate of red-hot iron on his hair, and a thick fume was immediately seen to rise from it. He struck his toes with another red-hot iron, and this likewise produced a thick and offensive vapor. He put an iron nearly red-hot between his teeth. He drank about a third of a spoonful of boiling oil. He quickly plunged the ends of his fingers into melted lead, and put a little of the liquid metal on his tongue; and afterward he bore a red-hot iron upon that organ, which was covered with a grayish coating. Professor Sementini discovered: 1. That rubbings with sulphuric acid leave the skin insensible to red-hot iron. 2. That a more complete result is reached by rubbing with a solution of alum evaporated till it becomes spongy. 3. That the insensibility obtained by either of these processes is made considerably more perfect by a series of rubbings with hard soap, each rubbing, except the last one, being followed by washing with water. 4. That the tongue may be made insensible by covering it with a salve composed of a solution of alum saturated at the boiling-point. Boiling oil put on a tongue thus prepared did not burn it; a hissing was produced, like that of hot iron when put into water; the heated oil cooled in contact with the solution, and could then be swallowed without danger.

Professor Sementini remarks that Lionetto, to satisfy the spectators that the oil was really hot, threw lead into it, which melted, but that the lead, in melting, absorbed a part of the heat from the oil. It is very possible, also, that the jugglers, instead of melted lead, used