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The Aerial Noctiluca Robert Boyle - From The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle Epitomized By Richard Boulton

n London, 1699 Book IV, Chapter XXIV The Aerial Noctiluca, or some new Phenomena; and a process of a Factitious self-Shining Substance. Phosphoruss are either natural, as Glow-worms, some sorts of rotten Wood and Fishes; or artificial, which are the chief subject of this discourse; and are either, First, such as will retain a Lucidness sometime after they have been exposed to the Sun-Beams, as the Bolonian Stone, and Phosphorus Hermeticus of Balduinus, which may be made of Chalk, the latter of which succeeds much better than the former; for it is presently excited in the Sun-Beams, and even at the flame of the Candle, coutinues (should be continues) to shine a considerable time in the dark; yet this advantage the Bolonian Stone hath above the other, that it retains its Virtue of being excited much longer. Or, Secondly, self-shining substances, such as are usually called Noctiluca; and are either consistent or liquid, such as Mr. Crafft brought to London, the consistent one being of a gummy Nature and consistently lucid; but the other apt to vanish, if exposed to the open Air. To which I shall add, one of my own preparation, which does not shine itself but when exposed to the Air, the Effluvia mixing with it became lucid, which therefore I call the Aerial Noctiluca: In preparing of which, from some Parts of a Mans Body, it was not only difficult to hit upon the true degree of Heat, but the Vessels in which it was raised by Distillation, being not able to hold out so long as they should, we were forced to save the Luciferous matter, by small parcels and in distinct Vials. Observations made on the Liquor which was containd in the second Vial, which tho it was large enough to contain two ounces, had but a spoonful of the Liquor in it. 1. By Day-light this shining Liquor was not near Diaphonous, but of a muddy grayish colour. And when it was disposed to shine in the dark, the Cavity of the Vial above the Liquor seemed to be full of whitish fumes, tho at other times transparent.

2. The Vial when close stopped was not Luminous in the dark, but the Light or Flame appeared as soon as it was exposed to the Air, and the Vial was unstopped; and that the Ascension and Propagation of this Flame depended on the contact of the Air, appeared, since agitation would not kindle it, but when the Bottle was unstopped the kindled Flame would gradually be propagated downwards; and if a few Bubbles of Air were only let in by removing the cork aside and putting it close in again, the Flame would appear upon the top of the fumes, without being able to propagate itself much downwards. To which Observations I shall add, that when the Flame appeared it was most vivid the nearer the Air, and when it was extinguished, it first disappeared in the bottom, and then expired at the top. But when the Vial had been unstopped for some time, when it was stopped again, the Air that had leisurely insinuated it felt would cherish the Flame for an hour or two. 3. It was observable, that when the Air had been long pend up with this shining Liquor, the spring of it would be so far weakened, that when the Vial was unstopped, the external Air would presently rush in again, from whence appears the Interest of the Air, in promoting the shining of this Aery Noctiluca. As for the Reason why the Air should contribute to such Phaenomena, I shall offer the following Conjectures, viz. That the Saline Parts of the Air, caused a Fermentation in the fumes of the Liquor, by which means, they being briskly agitated, are either conveyd to, or unite with the common Aether, and affect the Eye jointly; and tho Mr. Crafts consistent Noctiluca shines when closed up from the Air, yet that may be attributed partly to the Viscousness of the Luciferous matter, which is less apt to be dissipated; which I am the apter to believe, since it being once exposed to the open Air, it was considerably wasted and was rendered much more violent; to that it produced considerable effects of actual Heat. But tho I am inclined to believe that the Air contributes thus to the shining of these Noctilucas, by putting the Particles of the fumes into a brisk agitation, yet whether it acts immediately on the fumed matter it invades, or whether it dissipates it, or acts after the manner of a Vital Spirit, or further, whether the Air uniting with these fumes forms a Body fit to be agitated about by the Aether, I shall leave to be further inquired into. But to return to our Observations. 4. Tho agitation before the Vial was unstopped would not kindle the Light; yet when it was opened, it would be increased by it. And even when it was in its dark state, if I poured a little of it upon my hand, and rubbed it with my finger, it would presently become vivid, and emit store of Luminous Rays, as well as fumes very offensive to the Nostrils; and when I ceased to rub, and the Luminous Quality was lost, it would be renewed again by a repeated attrition; but in a little time its lucid Virtue would decay. 5. As for the degree of the Light of this Luminous matter, it was equal with that of some rotten wood; and it was observable, that the Rays of it were reflected but weakly by black Bodies, but appeared very lucid when inclosed in white ones,

tho I could not perceive the Rays of it reflected from a redish Diamond or an Emerald. This Light in respect of itself was Opacons, but transparent when held near external Light, and interposed betwixt it and the Eye. 6. I tried whether the Sun-Beams would excite those fumes, which are Concomitants of its Luminousness, but could not perceive them raisd in the least. As for the Nature of this Liquor I could not perceive it upon my Tongue either Acid or Alkalizate, but Empyreumatical, almost like that of Spirit of crude Tartar, its smell being like that of an Empyreumatical Oyl, compounded with a stink like that of stale Urine. It turned not Syrup of Violets green, as volatile Alkalies, or ruinous Salts do; nor did it by otherTryals appear to be an Acid. 7. This Liquor in its lucid State being agitated, several consistent Particles being by that Agitation raised, and sticking to the sides of the Glass, appeared to be more lucid than the Fumes. Having wet my Finger with this Liquor, and rubbed it upon my Hand tillit became luminous, I immersed my Finger in Water, upon which the Light was extinguished; but when I took it out of the Water, and rubbed it again, it became lucid as before. 8. But twice I observd, that there was such a peculiar Temper in the Air, that it continud to flame twelve or fifteen Hours after it had been stopped up. And at last this Liquor became so effaete (?), that it would not yield Light, till its Parts were agitated by Attrition, or put into motion by the Heat of the Fire. 9. To what Observations have been already made, I shall add the following, made on the Liquor containd in the first Vial. Observations on the Liquor contained in the first Vial. 1. The Liquor being muddy shone ten hours after it was first poured into the Vial, and when the Vial was unstopped the Fumes were put into a circular Motion round the sides of the Glass, like a Whirl-wind; which perhaps might depend in some measure on the violent Ingress of Air, upon opening the Vial; tho I have sometimes observd lucid Rotations of Matter in the Cavity of the Vial, a considerable time after such Eruptions. 2. The Flames which were afforded by rubbing these Liquors, yielded white Fumes of a rank offensive Smell; the Colour of the Flame being yellow, and tremulous in their Motion, and inconstant, sometimes flashing out more than other times; but it neither burnt the Skin, nor singed fine Linnen: So that if any, it must resemble that Flamma Vitalis which is supposed to reside in Animals. 3. A Pencil being dipped in this Liquor, and drawn upon white Paper, deposed only its watery part; but the more gummy Matter in the Pencil being squeezed out, it seemed to burn like a Candle, and sometimes shooting downwards, as if it

were played about the Hairs that made up that part of the Pencil, which brought into my Mind those Veses of Virgil, Ecce levis fummo de virtice visus Iuli Fundere lumen Apex, tactuque innoxia molli Lambere flamma Comas, &c. Aenid. And it was observable, that this Flame would successively appear and disappear for a considerable time, and sometimes when the wreathing of the Hairs was violent, the Flame would be accompanyd with a momentary, tho sensible Heat, yet it would not fire Gun-powder; tho some of the consistent Mtter, whilst it was preparing, being taken out with a Knife, and the Knife rubbed betwixt the Thumb and Fingers with a blue Calico Apron, the Matter received such an Impression from that Attrition, as put its parts into so violent a Motion, that two Holes were burnt in the Apron. Some of the Liquor contained in the Receiver, and diluted with Water, turned Syrup of Violets green, and fermented with Acids. 4. Some of this Liquor being contained in a Vial, and conveyd into our Pneumatick Engin, tho the Air could not be so far exhausted, but that there was a sufficient quantity left behind to kindle the Flame; yet the Commotion occasiond by Pumping, would be, as if it were ventilated, or blown up, and made to shine more vividly. And a piece of Paper moistend with this Liquor, being conveyd into a Receiver, tho by the Commotion of the Receiver, the Flame seemed to be still increased, yet in those Parts betwixt the Folds it appeared to be much less than in the open Air; and tho when moist Air was let in again the Flame was extinguishd, yet upon a removal of the Receiver, when the Paper was exposed to the open Air it renewed its Flame. 5. Some of this Liquor being at the first filtred, the Substance remaining in the Filtre being enclosed with it in a wide-mouthed Glass, it became luminous when exposed to the Air. And another piece of Paper being shut up in another Glass, when it was spread open in a dark Place, several Flashes sprang out incessantly and successively, first in one place then in another, and were not only various in their Figures, but had frequent Emications and Tremblings. 6. Some of this luciferous Matter being dissolvd in an aqueous Liqur, which was transparent when it was settled, tho a moderate Agitation would not produce Light in it, yet being set in a Sand-heat in a Bolt-head till the Ball was too hot to be touched with ones hand, I caused it to be removed int a dark place, and found that it had acquird a manifest Luminousness, and the Liquor being variously agitated and broke, several Flakes of Light ascended to the top of the Stem; and when the Liquor was agitated till it was spread over the inside of the Ball and part of the Stem, it was adorned with luciferous parts of Matter, which twinkled like so many Stars, and descended in Lines, some of which were very oblique and pleasant.

7. Once I boservd, that when the Liquor containd in a Bolt-Glass was not very hot, having given it a rude shake, a Spark rose on one side, and spread all over the Cavity of the Ball. And to what hath been observd, I shall add, that some of this Liquor having been hermetically sealed up, it retaind its luciferous Qualities a long time. 8. The way to make the Phosphorus Balduini, is the following, viz, Having dissolved fine white Chalk in Spirit of Nitre, or clean Aqua fortis, it must be filtred through Cap-paper, and the clear Solution is to be evaporated till there remains a dry substance; which being spread over the inside of a round Vessel which will endure the Fire, you are to give it a peculiar degree of Heat; and which commonly requires a convenient shaped Vessel, whereby the Flame or Heat may be reverberated, till the Matter hath acquired a disposition to retain Light; and then the Vessel must be covered with a Glass or fine Crystal Cover, to keep it from the outward Air. 10. The Process which we took to make our Aery Noctiluca was the following; We took a considerable quantity of putrified Urine; which was distilld till all the spirituous Parts were drawn off; after which the superfluous moisture was also abstracted, till the remaining Substance was brought to the Consistence of a thick Syrup, which being well incorporated, with three times its Weight of white Sand, the Mixture was put into a strong Retort, to which a large Receiver was joined in a good measure filled with Water: Then the two Vessels being carefully luted together, and a naked Fire being gradually administered for five or six Hours, that the Phlegmatick or Volatil Parts might come over first. When this was done, the Fire was increased, and at the length for five or six Hours, made as strong and intense as the Furnace was capable of giving; by which means good store of white Fumes came over, almost like those that appear in the Distillation of Oyl of Vitriol, which when they are past, and the Receiver grew clear, they were after a while succeeded by another sort, which seemed, in the Receiver, to give a faint bluish Light, almost like that of little burning Matches, dipt in Sulphur. And last of all, the Fire being very vehement, a more ponderous Substance passed over, which fell to the bottom of the Water, which being taken out, appeared to be luciferous. But whether the shining Faculty depends on the volatile and spirituous Parts of this Animal Liquor, or of the fixed Salt, and ponderous faetid Oyl, I shall not determine, till further satisyd by Observations. An Appendix to the Aerial Noctiluca. 1. Some luciferous Matter, that had long time lost its shining Faculty, being heated by the Fire, presently shone vividly enough, and continud to do so whilst it was sufficiently warm; but in a few Weeks, it likewise lost this Disposition of Heating. And tho some consistent Matter had lost its Power of shining, yet the Superficies being taken off, the Matter that lay under it rubbed upon my Hand would presently become luminous.

2. Tho this luminous Matter be not feculent, yet it usually leaves some of its gummy Parts sticking to the sides of the Vial, which may be discoverd by heating the Vial, or if it be broke in pieces, and agitated in another Vessel; for by that means, the Parts being rubbed against another, and variously placed with their sides upwards and downwards, they would every way diffuse a clear Light. 3. A twelfth part of a Vial being filled with a liquid Phosphorus of another kind, so that a greater quantity of Air might be contained in it, it continud to shine without unstopping the Vial. And I sometimes observs several Exhalations like Clouds, or Aggegates of Smoak, to roll to and fro in the cavity of the Vessl; and would grow much more lucid upon shaking the Vial. 4. When it had lost its Light for some time, it filled the Cavity of the Vial, when unstopped, with Fumes, which like those of the other Noctilucas, appeared white in the Light, and luminous in the Dark. A Bolt-head half full of this luminous Matter being sealed up hermetically, it continued luminous six days and Nights; and when a great part of the Liquor was poured off, the remaining Sediment being spread about the sides of the Glass, by inverting it, they appeared like so many bright twinkling Stars in a clear Night.