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Dalton, John – Philosophical Experiments – 03 Intensity and the Laws of Attraction



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John Dalton – Philosophical Experiments


86. Another rule to be remembered is, that the affinity of a body for different substances varies in intensity. If the affinity of ammonia for oil be represented by the figure 5, its affinity for the acids will be equal to 10; and, consequently, its tendency to combine with them will be twice that with which it is urged to unite with the oil. Therefore, a substance, for which a body has the strongest affinity, will combine with it in preference to combining with any other.

Many examples might be given of this fact. Potassium, for instance, has so powerful an affinity for the element called oxygen, that it will separate it from any other element with which it may be united, and will burst into flame when thrown upon water.

87. In most works on chemistry, tables of the affinity of a body for different substances are given, showing what compounds it will decompose, by abstracting the substance to which it is particularly attracted. It may be stated as a general rule, that a body which has the strongest affinity for another substance will separate it from any combination it may have formed : this, however, will not hold true in all cases. It was formerly supposed, that a compound body could never be composed by a substance having a weaker affinity for either of the constituents than they had for each other ; but it has since been found that such an event can take place, and it may be proved by experiment where a body, having a weak affinity for a substance, separates it from another body, for which it has a more powerful affinity. The circumstance may be explained, by supposing that the intensity of the action between any two bodies depends on their quantity, as well as on the peculiar affinity of the atoms individually for each other ; and consequently, that a large quantity of any substance, of weak affinity, will overcome the affinity of a smaller quantity, even though it has generally a stronger affinity for a substance than that by which it is subdued.

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Dalton, John

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