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and that, in short, what escapes and is dissipated in the burning of bodies, besides water and earth, is generally the air and fire that before made parts of the solid. Thus I imagine that animal heat arises by or from a kind of fermentation in the juices of the body, in the same manner as heat arises in the liquors preparing for distillation, wherein there is a separation of the spirituous from the watery and earthly parts. And it is remarkable that the liquor in a distiller's vat, when in its highest and best state of fermentation, as I have been informed, has the same degree of heat with the human body: that is, about 94 or 96.
Thus, as by a constant supply of fuel in a chimney you keep a warm room, so, by a constant supply of food in the stomach, you keep a warm body; only, where little exercise is used, the heat may possibly be conducted away too fast; in which case, such materials are to be used for clothing and bedding, against the effects of an immediate contact of the air, as are, in themselves, bad conductors of heat, and consequently prevent its being communicated through their substance to the air. Hence what is called warmth in wool, and its preference on that account to linen, wool not being so good a conductor; and hence all the natural coverings of animals, to keep them warm, are such as retain and confine the natural heat in the body, by being bad conductors, such as wool, hair, feathers, and the silk by which the silk-worm, in its tender embryo state, is first clothed. Clothing thus considered does not make a man warm by giving warmth, but by preventing the too quick dissipation of the heat produced in his body, and so occasioning an accumulation.
There is another curious question I will just venture to touch upon, namely: Whence arises the sudden extraordinary degree of cold perceptible on mixing some chemical liquors, and even on mixing salt and snow, where the composition appears colder than the coldest of the ingredients? I have never seen the chemical mixtures made, but salt and snow I have often mixed myself, and am fully satisfied that the composition feels much colder to the touch, and lowers the mercury in the thermometer more, than either ingredient would do separately. I suppose, with others, that cold is nothing more than the absence of heat or fire. Now, if the quantity of fire before contained or diffused in the snow and salt was expelled in the uniting of the two matters, it must be driven away either through the air or the vessel containing them. If it is driven off through the air, it must warm the air, and a thermometer held over the mixture, without touching it, would discover the heat by the rising of the mercury, as it must, and always does, in warm air.
This, indeed, I have not tried, but I should guess it would rather be driven off through the vessel, especially if the vessel be metal, as being a better conductor than air; and so one should find the basin warmer after such mixture. But, on the contrary, the vessel grows cold, and even water, in which the vessel is sometimes placed for the experiment, freezes into hard ice on the basin. Now, I know not how to account for this otherwise than by supposing that the composition is a better conductor of fire than the ingredients separately, and, like the lock compared with the wood, has a stronger power of attracting fire, and does accordingly attract it suddenly from the fingers, or a thermometer put into it, from the basin that contains it, and from the water in contact with the outside of the basin; so that the fingers have the sensation of extreme cold, by being deprived of much of their natural fire; the thermometer sinks, by having part of its fire drawn out of the mercury; the basin grows colder to the touch, as by having its fire drawn into the mixture it is become more capable of drawing and receiving it from the hand; and through the basin the water loses its fire that kept its fluid, so it becomes ice. One would expect that, from all this attracted acquisition of fire to the composition, it should become warmer; and, in fact, the snow and salt dissolve at the same time into water, without freezing.
LoNDON, June 17, 1758.
IN a former letter I mentioned the experiment for cooling bodies by evaporation, and that I had, by repeatedly wetting the thermometer with common spirits, brought the mercury down five or six degrees. Being lately at Cambridge, and mentioning this in conversation with Dr. Hadley, professor of chemistry there, he proposed repeating the experiments with ether, instead of common spirits, as the ether is much quicker in evaporation. We accordingly went to his chamber, where he had both ether and a thermometer. By dipping first the ball of the thermometer into the ether, it appeared that the ether was precisely of the same temperament with the thermometer, which stood then at 65; for it made no alteration in the height of the little column of mercury. But when the thermometer was taken out of the ether, and the ether, with which the ball was wet, began to evaporate, the mercury sunk several degrees. The wetting was then repeated by a feather that had been dipped into the ether, when the mercury sunk still lower.
We continued this operation, one of us wetting the ball, and
another of the company blowing on it with the bellows, to quicken the evaporation, the mercury sinking all the time, till it came down to 7, which is twenty-five degrees below the freezing point, when we left off. Soon after it passed the freezing point, a thin coat of ice began to cover the ball. Whether this was water collected and condensed by the coldness of the ball, from the moisture in the air, or from our breath; or whether the feather, when dipped into the ether, might not sometimes go through it, and bring up some of the water that was under it, I am not certain; perhaps all might contribute. The ice continued increasing till we ended the experiment, when it appeared near a quarter of an inch thick all over the ball, with a number of small spicula, pointing outwards.
From this experiment one may see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer's day, if he were to stand in a passage through which the wind blew briskly, and to be wet frequently with ether, a spirit that is more inflammable than brandy or common spirits of wine.
It is but within these few years that the European philosophers seem to have known this power in nature of cooling bodies by evaporation. But in the East they have long been acquainted with it. A friend tells me there is a passage in Bernier's Travels through Hindostan, written near one hun. dred years ago, that mentions it as a practice (in travelling over dry deserts in that hot climate) to carry water in flasks wrapt in wet woollen cloths, and hung on the shady side of the camel, or carriage, but in the free air; whereby, as the cloths gradually grow drier, the water contained in the flasks is made cool. They have likewise a kind of earthen pots, unglazed, which let the water gradually and slowly ooze through their pores, so as to keep the outside a little wet, notwithstanding the continual evaporation, which gives great coldness to the vessel, and the water contained in it. Even our common sailors seem to have had some notion of this property; for I remember that, being at sea when I was a youth, I observed one of the sailors, during a calm in the night, often wetting his finger in his mouth, and then holding it up in the air, to discover, as he said, if the air had any motion, and from which side it came; and this he expected to do, by finding one side of his finger grow suddenly cold, and from that side he should look for the next wind; which I then laughed at, as a fancy.
May not several phenomena, hitherto unconsidered or unaccounted for, be explained by this property? During the hot Sunday at Philadelphia, in June 1750, when the thermometer was up at 100 in the shade, and I sat in my chamber without exercise, only reading or writing, with no other clothes on than a shirt, and a pair of long linen drawers, the windows all open, and a brisk wind blowing through the house, the sweat ran off the backs of my hands, and my shirt was often so wet as to induce me to call for dry ones to put on. In this situation, one might have expected that the natural heat of the body (96), added to the heat of the air (100), should jointly have created or produced a much greater degree of heat in the body; but the fact was, that my body never grew so hot as the air that surrounded it, or the inanimate bodies immersed in the same air. For I remember well that the desk, when I laid my arm upon it; a chair, when I sat down in it; and a dry shirt out of the drawer, when I put it on, all felt exceedingly warm to me, as if they had been warmed before a fire. And I suppose a dead body would have acquired the temperature of the air, though a living one, by continual sweating, and by the evaporation of that sweat, was kept cold. May not this be a reason why our reapers in Pennsylvania, working in the open field, in the clear hot sunshine common in our harvest-time, find themselves well able to go through that labor, without being much incommoded by the heat, while they continue to sweat, and while they supply matter for keeping up that sweat by drinking frequently of a thin evaporable liquor, water mixed with rum; but, if the sweat stops, they drop, and sometimes die suddenly, if a sweating is not again brought on by drinking that liquor, or, as some rather choose in that case, a kind of hot punch, made with water, mixed with honey, and a considerable proportion of vinegar 2 May there not be in negroes a quicker evaporation of the perspirable matter from their skins and lungs, which, by cooling them more, enables them to bear the sun's heat better than whites do 2 (if this is a fact, as it is said to be; for the alleged necessity of having negroes, rather than whites, to work in the West India fields, is founded upon it) though the color of their skins would otherwise make them more sensible of the sun's heat, since black cloth heats much sooner, and more, in the sun, than white cloth. I am persuaded, from several instances happening within my knowledge, that they do not bear cold weather so well as the whites; they will perish when exposed to a less degree of it, and are more apt to have their limbs frost-bitten; and may not this be from the same cause ? Would not the earth grow much hotter under the summer sun, if a constant evaporation from its surface, greater as the sun shines stronger, did not, by tending to cool it, balance in some degree the warmer effects of the sun's rays? Is it not owing to the constant evaporation from the surface of every leaf, that trees, though shone on by the sun, are always, even the leaves themselves, cool to our sense ? at least, much cooler than they would otherwise be? May it not be owing to this that fanning ourselves when warm does really cool us, though the air is itself warm that we drive with the fan upon our faces; for the atmosphere round, and next to our bodies, having imbibed as much of the perspired vapor as it can well contain, receives no more, and the evaporation is therefore checked and retarded, till we drive away that atmosphere, and bring drier air in its place, that will receive the vapor, and therefore facilitate and increase the evaporation? Certain it is, that mere blowing of air on a dry body does not cool it, as any one may satisfy himself, by blowing with a bellows on the dry ball of a thermometer; – the mercury will not fall; if it moves at all, it rather rises, as being warmed by the friction of the air on its surface. To these queries of imagination, I will only add one practical observation: that, wherever it is thought proper to give ease, in cases of painful inflammation of the flesh (as from burnings, or the like), by cooling the part, linen cloths, wet with spirit, and applied to the part inflamed, will produce the coolness required better than if wet with water, and will continue it longer. For water, though cold when first applied, will soon acquire warmth from the flesh, as it does not evaporate fast enough; but the cloths wet with spirit will continue cold as long as any spirit is left to keep up the evaporation, the parts warmed escaping as soon as they are warmed, and carrying off the heat with them.
[To MISS STEVENSON.]
SALT WATER RENDERED FRESH BY DISTILLATION — METHOD OF RELIEVING THIRST BY SEA-WATER.
CRAven-STREET, August 10, 1761. WE are to set out this week for Holland, where we may possibly spend a month, but purpose to be at home again before the coronation. I could not go without taking leave of you by a line at least, when I am so many letters in your debt. In yours of May 19, which I have before me, you speak of the ease with which salt water may be made fresh by distilla