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[J. F. [.

the forces concerned cause the gas to remain attached during a fall through a distance of 5 cm. Moreover adsorption is selective as is demonstrated by the change in the composition of the gas. The experiment speaks against Harkins' method of measuring surfacetension. G.F.S.

The Foundation of Electromagnetism. (Isis, June, I928. ) To Hans Christian Oersted we owe the discovery of the magnetic effects of the electric current. He was born on a Danish island in I777, became professor in the University of Copenhagen and died in I85I. " T h e experiments which he began in April I82o are among the most memorable in the whole history of science. They enabled him to correlate two departments of natural philosophy, hitherto separate, electricity and magnetism--and thus to carry one step further the unification of knowledge." There is given a facsimile of a lithographic portrait of Oersted made by his compatriot Bearentzen who in making his likenesses used to draw directly on the stone. Two papers of Oersted are presented in facsimile, one his account in Latin of his discoveries and the other the English translation of the same paper, sent to the Annals of Philosophy. Both bear the date of July 2i, I82o, and both describe the author as " K ni ght of the Order of Danneborg, Professor of Natural Philosophy, and Secretary to the Royal Society of Copenhagen." The title in English is "Experiments on the Effect of a Current of Electricity on the Magnetic Needle." This, however, is a free translation of the Latin heading "Experimenta circa Effectum Conflictus Electrici in Acum Magneticam." What the Latin words for "conflict of electricity" meant is explained in the English text where in regard to a wire connected to the ends of a galvanic battery it is said " T o the effect which takes place in this conductor and in the surrounding space, we shall give the name of the conflict of electricity." The 'electric conflict' then includes both the electric current and its magnetic field. For example it is said " I t is sufficiently evident from the preceding facts that the electric conflict is not confined to the conductor, but dispersed pretty widely in the circumjacent space." It is indeed surprising to note how well Oersted gets along without any equivalent for the modern expression 'the electric current.' He is definite by stating which end of the wire receives positive or negative electricity, though references to negative electricity preponderate. It seems that others had previously sought in vain for an effect of open galvanic circuits upon the magnetic needle. Oersted in the winter of 182o found an effect to occur provided the circuit be closed, or, as he quaintly phrases it, " t h e galvanic circle must be

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complete." He repeated the experiments using a stronger b a t t e r y and gives the names of six men who were witnesses. This method of attesting the credibility of discoveries has its merits. Had Blondlot and Charpentier followed the example of the Danish investigator perhaps the m y t h of the N rays would not have arisen a quarter of a c e n t u r y ago. The science of electrical measurements was not yet born for we read " A smaller apparatus will answer provided it be strong enough to heat a metallic wire red hot." A straight piece of wire conveying the electric current was tried in various positions in relation to the needle and the deflections noted. T h e needle was seen to be deflected in a horizontal plane or a vertical plane according to the location of the wire and v e r y acutely the conclusion is drawn that " T h e effect cannot be ascribed to a t t r a c t i o n " and later " T h i s conflict performes circles; for without this condition, it seems impossible t h a t the one part of the uniting wire, when placed below the magnetic pole, should drive it toward the east, and when placed above it toward the west; for it is the nature of a circle that the motions in opposite parts should have an opposite direction." The nature of the wire made no difference for "Wires of platinum, gold, silver, brass, iron, ribbons of lead and tin, a mass of mercury were employed with equal success." M a n y different substances were interposed between the current and the needle but all tried were without effect. No ferromagnetic material was tested. A brass needle and needles of gum lac and of glass in turn replaced the magnetic needle but all remained undeflected by the current. Oersted considers but rejects as valueless for explanatory purposes " a motion in circles, joined with a progressive motion, according to the length of the conductor." This, however is surprisingly reminiscent of one modern mnemonic device for connecting the deflection of the needle with the direction of the current. G. F. S.

An Attempt to Polarize Electron Waves by Reflection.

(7. J.

DAVISSON AND L. H, GERMER. (Nature, Nov. 24, I928.) Now that certain striking resemblances between electrons and light waves have been shown to exist it is quite in order that search should be made in the endeavor to find additional similarities. T h e authors who proved electrons to be reflected from crystals much as light waves are reflected from mirrors have looked for evidence t h a t upon the reflection of electrons from a crystal some change occurs t h a t is analogous to the polarization imposed upon light when it is reflected from glass. T h e y report " S o far as our observations go, there is no polarization of electron waves by reflection." G.F.S.