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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/52

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

It may not be amiss here to state that a severe criticism of Emmens's "Argentaurum Papers" appeared in Science the same year, written by Dr. R. S. Woodward. The libel suit instituted against the critic and Dr. J. McKeen Cattell, the "responsible editor," however, never came to issue.

A number of cases are on record illustrating the methods pursued in selling secret processes for the manufacture of gold. Accounts of many of these are in my possession as a result of the assiduous search on the part of my private assistant, Mr. W. A. Hamor. A recounting of them is scarcely suitable here. Suffice it to say, that a careful analysis of the motives actuating and methods pursued presents merely an inferior picture of the perfected practises we are gradually learning of as obtaining in that circle termed "high finance."

Among many communications reaching the writer, one is of more than passing interest. Mr. R. M. Hunter, of Philadelphia, has written concerning "synthetic gold" as follows:

I have so perfected the process that in my judgment, based upon my actual experience, gold may be manufactured at enormous profit, and to this end I have designed a plant to be erected in Philadelphia and am at this moment negotiating for the $500,000 capital for its erection. I realize that the public and most scientific men are adverse to belief in the possibility of such an enterprise, but I know what I am doing and can afford to allow public sentiment to follow its own course.

Enclosed with the letter was an affirmative affidavit. On request, Mr. Hunter promptly forwarded me samples of silver in which the gold is "growing" and some "grown-up" gold, said to have been produced by his secret process. I have not made analyses of the samples, which are here exhibited.

Any discussion of the transmutation of the elements must involve a clear understanding of what we mean by the term element. By agreement, chemists regard an element as a substance which shows a characteristic spectrum and a definite combining weight. That such characterization is inadequate, that the ground upon which the characterization is founded may be shifting sand, and not the firm rock we are wont to liken it to, need not involve the present topic, as the agreed basis suffices for our purpose.[1]

Work on transmutation has by no means been limited to efforts to prepare the noble metals. Fittica's[2] investigations on the action of ammonium compounds on phosphorus in the presence of air led him to the conclusion that a true transformation of phosphorus into arsenic takes place, and that arsenic appears to be a nitro-oxygen compound of phosphorus, namely, . The formation of arsenic from phos-

  1. These matters are thoroughly discussed in a forthcoming work by the writer from the press of John Wiley and Sons.
  2. F. Fittica, Leopoldina, 36, 40; Chemiker-Zeitung, 1900, 24, 483; Chemical News, 81, 257.