Chemists are ever on the alert to notice analogies and resemblances in the atomic structure of different bodies. They long ago indicated points of resemblance between bisulphide of carbon and carbonic acid. In the case of the latter we have one atom of carbon united to two of oxygen, and in the case of the former one atom of carbon united to two of sulphur. Attempts have been made to push the analogy still further by the discovery of a compound of carbon and sulphur analogous to carbonic oxide, but hitherto, I believe, without success. I have now to note a resemblance of some interest to the physicist, and of a more settled character than any hitherto observed.

When, by means of an electric current, a metal is volatilized and subjected to spectrum analysis, the "reversal" of the bright band of the incandescent vapor is commonly observed. This is known to be due to the absorption of the rays emitted by the vapor by the partially cooled envelope of its own substance which surrounds it. The effect is the same in kind as the absorption by cold carbonic acid of the heat emitted by a carbonic oxide flame. For most sources of radiation carbonic acid is one of the most transparent of gases; for the radiation from the hot carbonic acid produced in the carbonic oxide flame it is the most opaque of all.

Again, for all ordinary sources of radiant heat, bisulphide of carbon, both in the liquid and vaporous form, is one of the most diathermanous bodies ever known. I thought it worth while to try whether a body reputed to be analogous to carbonic acid, and so pervious to most kinds of heat, would show any change of deportment when presented to the radiation from hot carbonic acid. Does the analogy between the two substances extend to the vibrating periods of their atoms? If it does, then the bisulphide, like the carbonic acid, will abandon its usually transparent character, and play the part of an opaque body when presented to the radiation from the carbonic oxide flame. This proved to be the case. Of the radiation from hydrogen, a thin layer of bisulphide transmits 90 per cent., absorbing only 10. For the radiation from carbonic acid, the same layer of bisulphide transmits only 25 per cent., 75 per cent. being absorbed. For this source of rays, indeed, the bisulphide transcends, as an absorbent, many substances which, for all other sources, far transcend it.


A paper read before the Royal Society, April 5, 1883.