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James Cutbush An American Chemist, 1788-1823   By: (1854-1928)

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JAMES CUTBUSH

JAMES CUTBUSH

AN AMERICAN CHEMIST

1788 1823

BY EDGAR F. SMITH PROVOST OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

Let us preserve the memory of the deserving; perhaps it may prompt others likewise to deserve

PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1919

PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

TO MY FELLOW CHEMISTS

PREFACE

There is nothing thrilling in the following pages. They contain the story of the life work of a very modest man deeply interested in and enamoured with the science of chemistry, who sought also to inspire others and to familiarize the general public of his time with the intimate connection of chemistry with manufactures and things which enter so largely into every day occupations. He was an active member of a small group of chemists who, in the early years of eighteen hundred, caused thousands of the laity to give thought to the possibilities of Chemistry, and in addition was a pioneer in pyrotechnics, on which account he is deservedly entitled to every recognition. More than a century has passed since his most serious efforts were put forth. However, it will not be long until that early galaxy of chemical enthusiasts of which he was a member will be accorded a high place in the history of the development of the science in America.

JAMES CUTBUSH

AN AMERICAN CHEMIST

1788 1823

It is scarcely conceivable that anything pertaining to the development of chemical science in America would fail to interest its chemists. The response to the needs of the Nation in the last few years has shown how marvelously they wrought and the wonderful things which they brought to light. Yet in the long ago in the days of which we only know by hearsay, and through desultory reading, there lived chemists with enthusiasm, knowledge and initiative, whose aim it was to have their chosen science contribute to the welfare of humanity. In the labors of such men as James Woodhouse, Robert Hare, Adam Seybert, Henry Seybert, John Redman Coxe, Joseph Cloud, Gerard Troost, and many others, the scientific spirit predominated, although with it went the purpose, more or less sharply defined, of making their acquirements useful. Particularly noticeable was this in the instance of Woodhouse.

The general consensus of opinion among present day chemists is that chemistry should be helpful to all. It may and should be scientific, but its principles ought to be scientifically applied in every useful manner.

The reader, desirous of learning the aims and ambitions of the fathers of the science in our country, will profit by turning to the files of the Aurora , an old daily paper of Philadelphia, for the year 1808, and beginning about the middle of July will there encounter a most interesting series of articles on the applications of chemistry under the general heading

APPLICATION OF CHEMISTRY TO ARTS AND MANUFACTURES

There are fifteen separate papers. In considering the period 1808, the age of the young Republic, and that the times were far from quiet; that unrest and uncertainty prevailed as to the fate of the Republic, it does not surprise that thought should have been given to means of protection; hence gunpowder was the very first product to engage the author of the series of articles. The proving and analysis of the powder are discussed at length. The methods appear very primitive in the light of present day knowledge, but one must not forget the period. One hundred years hence the masterpieces of present day chemists will perhaps provoke smiles upon the countenances of those who perchance read them. In this pioneer contribution on gunpowder analysis the charcoal of the powder is often called "oxid of carbon." In referring to the separation of potassium and sodium it is recommended to precipitate out the first in the form of tartrate. Naturally, nitre itself comes in for serious thought and the explosibility of the mixture of charcoal, nitre and sulphur arrests the author's attention, for he emphasizes the fact

"that, independent of the formation of gases or airs, the agency of caloric, or matter of heat, generated in the process of combustion, considerably facilitates the strength of the powder, in consequence of producing the expansion of these airs... Continue reading book >>




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