* And to pure air. l. 204. Until very lately water was esteemed a simple element, nor are all the most celebrated chemists of Europe yet converts to the new opinion of its de∣composition. Mr. Lavoisier and others of the French school have most ingeniously endeavoured to shew that water consists of pure air, called by them oxygene, and of inflammable air, called hydrogene, with as much of the matter of heat, or calorique, as is necessary to preserve them in the form of gas. Gas is distinguished from steam by its preserving its elasticity under the pressure of the atmosphere, and in the greatest degrees of cold yet known. The history of the progress of this great discovery is detailed in the Memoires of the Royal Academy for 1781, and the experimental proofs of it are delivered in Lavoisier's Elements of Chemistry. The results of which are that water consists of eighty-five parts by weight of oxygene, and fifteen parts by weight of hydrogene, with a sufficient quantity of Calorique. Not only numerous chemical phe∣nomena, but many atmospherical and vegetable facts receive clear and beautiful eluci∣dation from this important analysis. In the atmosphere inflammable air is probably per∣petually uniting with vital air and producing moisture which descends in dews and showers, while the growth of vegetables by the assistance of light is perpetually again decomposing the water they imbibe from the earth, and while they retain the inflam∣mable air for the formation of oils, wax, honey, resin, &c. they give up the vital air to replenish the atmosphere.

 [ return to text ]