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Observations placeholder

Dalton, John – Philosophical Experiments – Attraction; between mercury and gold



Type of Spiritual Experience


John wrote better explanations for children as teaching aids than he did in his scientific tracts, which tend to be wordy – unnecessarily so at times.  So we have taken some extracts from his Philosophical Experiments a book with very small print and few pictures, which nevertheless had the objective of providing ‘young persons with the means of obtaining a knowledge of some of the most important phenomena of nature and the application of science to purposes of utility; and secondly to furnish them with an almost inexhaustible fund of amusement for winter evenings and other occasions when exercises in the open air are obliged to make way for indoor recreation.’

There is something quite appealing about the idea that he thinks that young persons are perfectly capable of handling nitric acid and mercury – there is not a single ‘be careful’ anywhere in the text!

Do not be deluded by the simplicity of the experiments, they each demonstrate the various laws and forces he was trying to explain.

A description of the experience

John Dalton – Philosophical Experiments

Experiments in Chemistry

113.  If a sovereign be rubbed with mercury, it will lose its usual appearance and appear as if silvered over; the attraction of the gold for the mercury being sufficient to cause a coating of it to remain.

114.  When it is wished to remove the silvery appearance, dip the sovereign in a dilute solution of nitric acid, which will entirely take it off.  Some rather laughable circumstances have occurred, where persons having a little quicksilver get loose in their pockets, have been surprised to find their sovereigns apparently changed to shillings.

The preceding experiments are not strictly chemical, but they are introduced here for the purpose of illustrating attraction and repulsion.

The source of the experience

Dalton, John

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps