Bromine is an elementary substance, discovered in 1826 by M. Balard, of Montpellier, who obtained it from the bittern of salt-works, remaining after the crystallization of common salt from concentrated sea-water, in which it exists, combined with magnesium, in the form of bromide. it has subsequently been found, in the same form, or combined with sodium, in marine vegetables and animals, in numerous saline springs, in certain ores of zinc and cadmium, and in the coal-gas liquor of Paris. in the U. States it was first obtained by the late Prof. Silli-man from the bittern of the salt-works, at Salina, New York; but was subsequently found by Dr. David Alter much more abundantly in the salt-wells, near Freeport, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, in which it exists as bromide of sodium and of magnesium, and from which it is now largely prepared for commercial purposes.


Bromine is procured from bittern by means of dilute sulphuric acid and deutoxide of manganese, by which the bromide is decomposed; the bromine being liberated, and the metallic base, oxidized at the expense of the deutoxide, combining with a portion of the sulphuric acid; while the protoxide of manganese unites with another portion of the acid to form a sulphate. There is thus contained in the liquor a mixture of bromine with the sulphate of manganese and the sulphates of soda and magnesia, one or both, according as the bittern contained bromide of sodium, or bromide of magnesium, or the two together. From this the bromine is distilled, by means of a water-bath, and condensed in a refrigerated receiver containing water.


Bromine is liquid, of a dark-red or hyacinthine colour, a peculiar very caustic taste, a strong unpleasant odour somewhat resembling that of chlorine, and a density nearly three times that of water. it is volatilizable, evaporating readily at ordinary temperatures, and boiling at 117° F., with the production of a reddish vapour resembling nitrous fumes, and having the sp. gr. 5.39. At negative 4° F. it is solidified, forming a hard brittle mass, of a lustre almost metallic, and a dark leaden colour. it is slightly dissolved by water, to which it gives an orange colour; but, with the addition of bromide of potassium, it is very freely soluble in that liquid. Alcohol dissolves it readily, and ether still more so. its solutions in these liquids are of a deep-red colour, which is gradually lost in consequence of the acidification of bromine, and its conversion into hydrobromic acid. it has a bleaching property similar to that of chlorine, and decomposes organic matters. With starch it unites to form a yellow compound. its combining number is 78.4.

Effects on the System

The trials hitherto made of pure bromine internally are insufficient to enable us to form a precise idea of its mode of operating on the system. it appears to be well established that it is a local irritant, capable when swallowed too largely, or insufficiently diluted, of producing irritation, inflammation, and even corrosion of the mucous membrane of the stomach; and it may thus no doubt prove absolutely poisonous. indeed, a case has been recorded in which about an ounce proved fatal in seven hours and a half (see U. S. Dispensatory, 12th ed., p. 114); the symptoms being those characteristic of the corrosive poisons. Ammonia is said to be the best antidote. in small doses, sufficiently diluted, it may be taken internally with perfect impunity; and may no doubt be used for obtaining the peculiar effects of the medicine on the system; though it is actually very seldom employed; the bromide of potassium being almost universally preferred.*

* Bromism. This name has been conferred upon a morbid state of system, supposed to result from the use of bromine in excess. it must, however, be confessed that our knowledge of such a state of system is exceedingly indefinite; and it may be doubted whether the symptoms supposed, in some instances, to have resulted from bromine or its compounds, may not have been the consequence of mere idiosyncrasy in the person affected, or perhaps of some other concealed cause; as the bromides have often been given very largely without any such effects; and, in reference to the bromine itself, it may be considered questionable whether its poisonous operation is not that simply of an energetic irritant. The following case, reported by Dr. L. Marcq, is one of the few in which bromism is believed to have occurred.

To a patient affected with an ulcer in the larynx, bromide of potassium had been given for a considerable time without any striking effect; when uncombined bromine was administered locally, by means of the atomizer, some of the medicine being in all probability inhaled into the lungs. A week afterward, the patient exhibited the following symptoms; a dirty-yellow complexion, hollow eyes, a strange fixed look and expressionless countenance, considerable loss of flesh, tottering limbs, trembling hands, and a general cachectic condition. The appetite gradually failed; intense pains came on in the scalp, especially at night; and the debility and trembling increased daily. The bromine was now omitted; in two months the symptoms of bromism had declined; and the patient ultimately recovered not only from the effects of the medicine, but also from the laryngeal ulceration. (B. and F. Medico-chir. Rev., Oct. 1866, p. 534.) I have met with no similar account of the morbid effects of bromine in any other case.

Applied locally to the surface, it stains the skin yellow, and acts as an energetic irritant, producing a corrosive or caustic effect if undiluted.

Therapeutic Application

Before the introduction of bromide of potassium into use, bromine was employed as an alterative and deobstruent in the same affections as those in which the preparations of iodine had proved efficacious. By MM. Andral and Fournet it was tried, at an early period, in chronic articular rheumatism, and was found remarkably efficacious in relieving the pain, which disappeared speedily and completely under its use. They gave it internally, and applied it locally to the affected joint; in the former mode, administering it as a potion with a sufficient quantity of some mucilaginous liquid, in the latter applying it by friction to the part, simply dissolved in alcohol. (Bulletin Thera-peutique, Fev. 1838.) Subsequently, M. Pourche, of Montpellier, employed it in scrofulous affections, and succeeded by means of it in curing, in three months, a case of that disease which had persisted for seven years. He gave 6 drops of bromine, dissolved in 3 ounces of distilled water, 3 times daily, and gradually increased to 24 drops in 24 hours. (Trousseau et Pidoux, Trait, de Thérap., etc , 4e ed., i. 239.) it was also tried in secondary and tertiary syphilis, but failed entirely in this complaint. Other affections in which it was employed were bronchocele, tumours of various kinds, hypertrophy of the glands and of the heart, diphtheric exudations, amenorrhoea, and chronic cutaneous affections. But as an internal remedy it has given way almost entirely to bromide of potassium, and is now seldom prescribed. The dose has been stated very differently. in the U. S. Dispensatory, the late Dr. Bache, following Dr. Pereira in his Materia Medica (3d ed. p. 404), gave it as six drops of a solution containing one part of bromine to forty parts of water, to be taken several times a day. This would be equivalent, considering the great specific gravity of bromine, to little more than one-twentieth of a minim, which, according to the experience of the French practitioners who have made use of it, is very small indeed. M. Pourche, of Mont-pellier, gave six drops of bromine in about three ounces of distilled water, three times in the 24 hours, and increased the quantity taken in the day to twenty-four drops. (Trousseau et Pidoux, Traite, etc., 4e ed., i. 239.) Never having used bromine internally, I am unable to decide between these extremes; but I presume that no injury could accrue from a dose of two or three drops, largely diluted with some mucilaginous liquid, and gradually increased to six drops or more if required by the symptoms, and productive of no unpleasant effect.