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The spectrum of a hot body is continuous, it has no dark lines. If we pass the light emitted by the body through a flame, then the spectrum in the region of the D line will not differ in any manner from the solar spectrum: the dark line will appear in exactly the same place. But we are almost sure of the origin of this dark line; we can, at least, guess that it belongs to sodium. Consequently, according to the experimental conditions the D line of sodium may be either a bright yellow against a dark background or dark against a yellow background.

Crookes When spectral analysis came on the scene, it became a subject of keen interest even to the general public, not a frequent occurrence in science in those days. As always in such cases, amateurs were quick to dig up a host of other names to whom the credit for the discovery was allegedly due long before Kirchhoff and Bunsen. Among the candidates for the laurels were the Frenchman Jean Bernard Léon Foucault (1819 1868), who had proposed a similar experiment ten years earlier, the eminent astronomer and chemist Sir John Frederick William Herschel (1792 1871), the inventor of photography on paper William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 1877), and many others.

It was only in 1892 that Lord Rayleigh unearthed Waterston's manuscript in the archives and had it published. 43 44 Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up. Gilbert Chesterton Such a unanimous indifference to these works is evidently a result of the general frame of mind of the physicists and, in part, of the philosophical teachings of the day. In the middle of the nineteenth century nearly all philosophers denied the existence of atoms. This is  < previous page < previous page page_36 page_37 next page > next page > Page 37 quite strange, because eighteenth-century philosophers considered atoms to be an obvious, and even trivial, fact.

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