The Industrial Applications of Oxygen 1


    LAVOISIER, who was the first to recognise in its widest range the importance of oxygen, was also the first who succeeded in making a practical use of it. “It is evident,” he writes,2 “that atmospheric air is not the best calculated means to increase the effect of fire; for, when a volume of air is conveyed through the bellows to red-hot coals, three (?) parts of noxious or at least useless gas are conveyed with every one part of the useful kind of air; consequently, if the latter could be employed for combustion in its pure state, the action of the fire would be greatly increased. Doubtless this idea has occurred to many others before me; indeed, I hear that M. Achard3 has already tried the experiment, but as yet a cheap and convenient apparatus is wanting.” Lavoisier first used the bladders of animals, which were provided with cocks and tubes. “Then,” continued he, “I made a hole with a knife from three to four lines deep in a large piece of charcoal and placed in it six grs. of platinum. I then ignited the charcoal through the blowpipe communicating with the enamel lamp, uncocked my apparatus, and blew the pure vital air into the cavity. The coal burnt very rapidly with detonation (such as is produced by fusing saltpetre) and with dazzling brightness; in a few moments the platinum was fused to grains, which soon united into a drop. The fusion was effected equally well when using commercial platinum as when using that, which had been deprived of its magnetic parts by the magnet. Hitherto, it is well known, platinum had been considered infusible.” In the course of the same year Lavoisier4 improved his apparatus with the assistance of Meusnier, and soon became possessed of a gasometer consisting of two boxes greatly resembling, on a small scale, the well-known reservoirs used in gasworks for holding coal-gas. About the same time Saron had constructed two blow-pipes (chalumeaux), one to furnish oxygen, and the other hydrogen gas.

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