were soldered were in constant contact with the moist powder, the solder was much corroded and in part entirely destroyed, and that in the joints had collected a substance which, on being scraped out with a chisel, exploded with emission of sparks. It was suspected that the formation of this explosive material was in some way connected with the corrosion of the solder, and the subject was referred for investigation to Rudolph Weber, of the School of Technology, at Berlin. The main results of his investigation are here given.
The explosive properties of the substance indicated a probable nitro-compound of one of the solder metals (tin and lead), and as the lead salts are more stable and better understood than those of tin, it was resolved to investigate the latter, in hope of obtaining a similar explosive compound. Experiments on the action of moist potassium nitrate on pure tin led to no result, as no explosive body was formed. Stannous nitrate, Sn(NO3)2, formed by the action of dilute nitric acid on tin, has long been known, but only in solution, as it is decomposed on evaporating. By adding freshly precipitated moist brown stannous oxide to cool nitric acid of sp. gr. 1.20, as long as solution occurred, and then cooling the solution to -20°, Weber obtained an abundance of crystals of the composition Sn(NO3)2 + 20H2O. They resemble crystals of potassium chlorate. They cannot be kept, as they liquefy at ordinary temperatures. An insoluble basic salt was obtained by digesting an excess of moist stannous oxide in solution of stannous nitrate, or by adding to a solution of stannous nitrate by degrees, with constant stirring, a quantity of sodium carbonate solution insufficient for complete precipitation. Thus obtained, the basic salt, which has the composition Sn2N2O7, is a snow-white crystalline powder, which is partially decomposed by water, and slowly oxidized by long exposure to the air, or by heating to 100°. By rapid heating to a higher temperature, as well as by percussion and friction, it explodes violently, giving off a shower of sparks. This compound is also formed when a fine spray of nitric acid (sp. gr. 1.20) is thrown upon a surface of tin or solder. It is also formed when tin or solder is exposed to the action of a solution of copper nitrate, and thus formed presents the properties already described.
In this, then, we have a probable cause of the explosions occurring in the powder works; but the explanation of the formation of the substance is wanting, as potassium nitrate was shown not to give an explosive substance with tin. A thin layer of a mixture of sulphur and potassium nitrate was placed between sheets of tin and copper foil, and allowed to stand, being kept constantly moist. After a time the copper was found to have become coated with sulphide, while the tin was largely converted into the explosive basic nitrate. The conditions are obviously the same as those found in the powder machinery, where bronze and tin solder are constantly in contact with moist gunpowder. The chemical action is probably this: the sulphur of the powder forms, with the copper of the bronze, copper sulphide; this is oxidized to sulphate, which reacts with the niter of the powder, forming potassium sulphate and copper nitrate; the latter, as shown above, then forms with the tin of the solder the explosive basic nitrate, which, being insoluble, gradually collects in the joints, and finally leads to an explosion.—Journal für Praktische Chemie.
By L.F. Nilson.
The density of thorium as obtained by reducing the anhydrous chloride by means of sodium was found by Chydenius, 7.657 to 7.795. The author has obtained metallic thorium by heating sodium with the double anhydrous thorium potassium chloride, in presence of sodium chloride in an iron crucible. After treating the residue with water there remains a grayish, heavy, sparkling powder, which under the microscope appears to consist of very small crystals. Metallic thorium is brittle and almost infusible; the powder takes a metallic luster under pressure, is permanent in the air at temperatures up to 120°, takes fire below a red heat either in air or oxygen, and burns with a dazzling luster, leaving a residue of perfectly white thoria. If heated with chlorine, bromine, iodine, and sulphur, it combines with them with ignition. It is not attacked by water, cold or hot. Dilute sulphuric acid occasions the disengagement of hydrogen, especially if heated, but the metal is acted on very slowly. Concentrated sulphuric acid with the aid of heat attacks the metal very slightly, evolving sulphurous anhydride. Nitric acid, strong or weak, has no sensible action. Fuming hydrochloric acid and aqua regia attack thorium readily, but the alkalies are without action. The metal examined by the author behaves with the reagents in question the same as did the specimens obtained by Berzelius. The mean specific gravity of pure thorium is about 11. Hence it would seem that the metal obtained by Chydenius must have contained much foreign matter. The specific gravity of pure thoria is 10.2207 to 10.2198. The equivalent and the density being known, we may calculate the atomic volume. If we admit that the metal is equivalent to 4 atoms of hydrogen, we obtain the value 21.1. This number coincides with the atomic volumes of zirconium (21.7), cerium (21.1), lanthanum (22.6), and didymium (21.5). This analogy is certainly not due to chance; it rather confirms the opinion which I have put forward in connection with my researches on the selenites, on certain chloro-platinates and chloro-platinites, etc., that the elements of the rare earths form a series of quadrivalent metals.
[AMERICAN CHEMICAL JOURNAL.]
No one but a chemist can appreciate the full significance of the brief message which came to us a month ago without warning—"Wöhler is dead!" What need be added to it? No chemist was better known or more honored than Wöhler, and none ever deserved distinction and honor more than he. His life was made up of a series of brilliant successes, which not only compelled the admiration of the world at large, but directed the thoughts of his fellow workers, and led to results of the highest importance to science.
It is impossible in a few words to give a correct account of the work of Wöhler, and to show in what way his life and work have been of such great value to chemistry. Could he himself direct the preparation of this notice, the writer knows that his advice would be, "Keep to the facts." So far as any one phrase can characterize the teachings of Wöhler, that one does it; and though enthusiasm prompts to eulogy, let us rather recall the plain facts of his life, and let them, in the main, speak for themselves.1
He was born in the year 1800 at Eschersheim, a village near Frankfort-on-the-Main. From his earliest years the study of nature appears to have been attractive to him. He took great delight in collecting minerals and in performing chemical and physical experiments. While still a boy, he associated with a Dr. Buch, of Frankfort, and was aided by this gentleman, who did what he could to encourage in the young student his inclination toward the natural sciences. The first paper which bears the name of Wöhler dates from this period, and is upon the presence of selenium in the iron pyrites from Kraslitz. In 1820 he went to the University of Marburg to study medicine. While there he did not, however, neglect the study of chemistry. He was at that time particularly interested in an investigation on certain cyanogen compounds. In 1821 he went to Heidelberg, and in 1823 he received the degree of Doctor