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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/50

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46
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

SOME RECENT TRANSMUTATIONS[1]
By Professor CHARLES BASKERVILLE

COLLEGE OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

IT would prove of little general profit to review the elaborate alchemical literature of the nineteenth century. It may be stated that in 1832 Schneider published in Halle a history of alchemy accepting the transmutation of the metals as accomplished by those aware of the necessary procedures. The study of alchemy prospered in France,[2] although it has generally been considered that the new chemistry, beginning, as it were, with Lavoisier, put down absolutely the probability of the transmutation of the metals. The affairs of the Alchemical Association of France, the successor of the Société Hermetique, founded by Albert Poisson, are controlled by the secretary-general, assisted by seven councilors, who hold an annual meeting. Numbered among the honorary members are the astronomer, Flammarion, and August Strindberg,[3] a Swedish resident in Austria.

Although Marignac[4] acknowledged that the habitual association in nature of groups of elements, as for example titanium, tantalum and columbium, offered one of the strongest proofs that can be found for the community of their origin, it is of conservative interest to observe that von Meyer, in that charming "History of Chemistry" of his,[5] says: "The final echoes of the alchemistic problem which had for so long a period of time held the cultured of every nation in a state of tension, and had even blinded eminent scientific men, only appear to die away during the last decades of the nineteenth century." This statement remains in the last edition of his book (1906), in which are recounted the discoveries of radioactive bodies and the transformations of the emanation coming from those unique substances.

We are well aware that the problem of transmutation of the elements is not solely of academic interest from the legends, courageous, tragic, fantastic, ludicrous or iniquitous, that have been handed down. Motives characterized by harsher terms than selfishness are usually attributed these days to those who apply themselves to changing the

  1. Read before the New York Section of the American Chemical Society, October 11, 1907.
  2. See Baudrimont, "Traité de Chimie," Paris, 1844.
  3. See "Introduction a une Chimie Unitaire," Paris, 1895.
  4. Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles, 17, 5; Chemical News, 56, 39.
  5. Page 64; see also Kopp's, Die Alchemie in alterer und neuerer Zeit."