The Chemical History of a Candle
THE CHEMICAL HISTORY OF A CANDLE
A COURSE OF LECTURES DELIVERED BEFORE A JUVENILE AUDIENCE AT THE
MICHAEL FARADAY, D.C.L., F.R.S.
WILLIAM CROOKES, F.C.S.
A NEW IMPRESSION, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
CHATTO & WINDUS
From the primitive pine-torch to the paraffin candle, how wide an interval! between
them how vast a contrast! The means adopted by man to illuminate his home at
night, stamp at once his position in the scale of civilisation. The fluid bitumen of th e
far East, blazing in rude vessels of baked earth; the Etruscan lamp, exquisite in form,
yet ill adapted to its office; the whale, seal, or bear fat, filling the hut of the
Esquimaux or Lap with odour rather than light; the huge wax candle on the
glittering altar, the range of gas lamps in our streets,—all have their stories to tell.
All, if they could speak (and, after their own manner, they can), might warm our
hearts in telling, how they have ministered to man's comfort, love of home, toil, and
Surely, among the millions of fire-worshippers and fire-users who have passed away
in earlier ages, some have pondered over the mystery of fire; perhaps some clear
minds have guessed shrewdly near the truth. Think of the time man has lived in
hopeless ignorance: think that only during a period which might be spanned by the
life of one man, has the truth been known.
Atom by atom, link by link, has the reasoning chain been forged. Some links, too
quickly and too slightly made, have given way, and been repla ced by better work;
but now the great phenomena are known—the outline is correctly and firmly
drawn—cunning artists are filling in the rest, and the child who masters these
Lectures knows more of fire than Aristotle did.
The candle itself is now made to light up the dark places of nature; the blowpipe and
the prism are adding to our knowledge of the earth's crust; but the torch must come
Among the readers of this book some few may devote themselves to increasing the
stores of knowledge: the Lamp of Science must burn. "Alere flammam."
A CANDLE: THE FLAME—ITS SOURCES—STRUCTURE—MOBILITY—
BRIGHTNESS OF THE FLAME—AIR NECESSARY FOR COMBUSTION—
PRODUCTION OF WATER