Friday, June 29, 2007

A chemist and a ghost

Is this a chemist?

No, this is Florence Cook (1856-1904), a British medium who held seances in the 1870's. She was able to evoke a spirit. With Florence's gift the spirit was able to materialize. This spirit was made of a mysterious substance ectoplasm. The name of this spirit was Katie King. The biggest advantage of a materialized spirit is the fact that you are able to take pictures of it.

During a show she would disappear behind a curtain where she would make weird sounds. After a while the materialized spirit (who strangely enough looked just like Florence) would enter the room from behind the same curtain.
You may think:'So What? Why this nonsense? Was this Katie King ghost a chemist?'.

No, but there is this picture of Katie King. The spirit has her hands on the shoulder of this man.
The chemist and physicist Sir William Crookes (1832-1919) with impressive moustache and nice beard.

Crookes studied under the legendary August Wilhelm von Hofmann, he did extensive research on spectroscopy and cathode rays and discovered the element Thallium. He was president of the Royal Society. He was knighted in 1897 because of his scientific achievements. So Crookes was far from a second-class scientist.

Crookes investigated several mediums. His collaboration with Cook is the most famous. He attended many seances and made pictures of the Katie King spirit. His believe in such pseudoscience received a lot of criticism from the scientific community.

In order to prove that Florence Cook and Katie King were two different beings he wanted to make a picture that shows both of them. Ohh... the face of the spirit is covered with a blanket, that's a bummer.

Crookes appears in many theosophic writings as well, including Occult Chemistry: Investigations by Clairvoyant Magnification into the Structure of the Atoms of the Periodic Table and Some Compounds.

In this book there is a periodic system with the title : Periodic Law (after Crookes).

Adyarium and Occultum are there as elements and new series of elements, closely related to the rare gasses. They were called meta-element (meta-neon, meta-argon). When Francis Aston discovered isotopes he used Crookes' terminology and called 22Ne meta-neon.

There are still people who believe that Besant et al discovered isotopes because they described 22Ne. A lot of things they wrote about the meta-elements is not consistent with what we now know about isotopes.

Crookes, like others, believed in an elementary unit of matter, called protyle. Leadbeater and Besant studied this as well with their astral vision. Now there are people who say that they discovered quarks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Adyarium and Occultum

There is medicinal, organic, bio, theoretical, inorganic, astro, green, surface, polymer, petro, analytical, nuclear, computational, photo, organometallic, physical and a lot more chemistry.

There is a another research area: Occult Chemistry. You don't hear much about it nowadays.

A lot of the ludicrous research in this area was done by Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Wood (AKA Annie Besant). The work that was done between 1895 and 1933 is described in the book: Occult Chemistry: Investigations by Clairvoyant Magnification into the Structure of the Atoms of the Periodic Table and Some Compounds.

Besant and Leadbeater were important figures in the theosophical society. Besant was a pupil of the notorious Helena Petrovna Hahn (AKA H.P. Blavatsky).

Both Besant and Leadbeater were clairvoyants, and used this gift to examine atoms and molecules. They made drawings of structures of the elements and their compounds.When they were looking at air with their second sight they discovered a new element with an atomic weight of 3 and they called it Occultum. Later they discovered yet another element, Adyarium, with atomic weight 2 (and they knew that is was not deuterium but a real new element.)

Leadbeater and Besant are often called charlatans, but they were not. Their idiocy was sincere.
It would be great if they performed some synthesis.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Incredibly incredible

Angewandte Chemie International Edition wants to convince us of the fact that it is the best journal there is. In the last few issues they inserted a page with shrieking text in the graphical abstracts.
I can’t wait for the next issue to appear. Maybe this blog will inspire them to have an issue with articles by bearded chemists only.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tongue mystery

Still there is the question: Is it Ehrenfest or Debye? here on the 1927 Solvay conference video made by Irving Langmuir.
Comparing moustaches can give a clue. As Ashutosh said : Debye had a more Charlie Chaplin-like moustache. You can see this clearly on the famous group picture of the conference.

Here is Ehrenfest, from the same picture.
The 2 minutes video Ehrenfest contains several shots of Ehrenfest. Debye is there two or three times, just a brief moment.

Here he is with the Charlie Chaplin moustache again. In this frame his face seems to be a bit narrower.
It makes you wonder: was he was separated at birth from John Cleese.Debye isn't doing a silly walk though.

Here is Ehrenfest with Debye laughing in the background.His head appears to be polymorphous. When laughing his moustache appears to go from the Chaplin conformation into a broad moustache.I tend to believe that the tongue guy is Ehrenfest. Look at the last frame.
And compare it with this shot of Ehrenfest laughing at the camera.
Yeah, it must be Ehrenfest.... Ehhh... When I see the first frame of the 'stick out tongue'-sequence and look at this picture of Debye I'm in doubt again

The tongue guy is just a Ehrenfest-Debye blend separated at birth from John Cleese.

Monday, June 18, 2007


The previous post may contain false information about the identity of the person on the 'tongue picture'. We had a short discussion about it. We compared the moustache of Ehrenfest and Debye around that time and came to the conclusion that the person on the picture might indeed be Ehrenfest as Ashutosh said (and not a chemist). We may have had some false information. (See comments on previous post).

Maybe sorry.

Stolen idea: Separated at birth?

In this post there was a a picture of a (physical) chemist with the question 'Do you recognized the guy?' Ashutosh gave an aswer that provided an idea for this post.

One in ten thousand had two nice nonsense posts called Separated at birth? (All non-nonsense posts are quite nice as well!) So here is my 'Separated at birth?'.
Paul Ehrenfest

Petrus Josephus Wilhelmus Debije (Peter Debeye)

So the guy was Debije (who, later, changed his name to debye). One of the great early Dutch Nobel prize winners (Van 't Hoff, Van der Waals, Lorentz, Zeeman, Kamerlingh-Onnes). This picture is a frame from the video of the famous fifth Solvay conference. Many attendees were or became Nobel prize winners (this conference is probably famous because of the video).

There seems to be a discussion going on in the Netherlands about Debye. He was director of the physics section of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (in that time he (co)fouded the Max Plack institue) untill 1939, and it is said he actively participated in the removal of Jews from the German scientific community.

Many things have been said about this period of his career.

'It's a shame he worked for the Nazi's!'
'He had to because of the German laws!'
'He helped Jews (like Lise Meitner) to escape Germany!'
and so on and so on....

I don't know the true story. One thing is clear: he was not a murderer but he was a great chemist. Let those silly Dutch guys have their discussion about whether the 'Debye Institute' must be called 'Former Debeye Institute' as it is done now. I don't care (never been there), I'm sure Debye doesn't care. (who cares when he's dead?)

And now for something completely different... (I already spoke about stamps a while ago.)

I understand that there is a Dutch stamp with Debye on it.

Why is there a Debye stamp from Ghana?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dignifying Science

This is great!

From G.T. Labs : Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists

The numbers 1, 2 and 3 of the Top 5 female chemists are in this comic. Several other chemists play a role as well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Top 5 headgear chemists, and what they said

1) Petrus Debije (to Annie Schrödinger and Arnold Sommerfeld, Zürich 1926)

2) Otto Hahn (in the trenches of Ypres, WWI)

3) Svante Arrhenius (in Sptisbergen, Norway 1896)

4) Linus Pauling
5) Alexander Rich (let's just call him a chemist for this list)

Famous tongue

We had a discussion; What is the most famous chemist picture?

This picture of Mendeleev is quite famous.Well... famous... Chemists know this guy, but not everybody. A lot of people won't say :"aahh, that's Mendeleev," when they see this picture.

So, who is the most famous chemist? (We mean chemists that are famous for their scientific work, and not something else... like Margaret Thatcher.)

We believe it must be this chemist, most people who see this picture will say: "Hey, that's Curie". So this may be the most famous chemist picture.
And who is the most famous scientist? Newton? Darwin? No... It must be Einstein.

His formula is famous, his theory is famous, his brain is famous.

Even his tongue is famous. This may be the most famous scientist picture.
Did you know that Einstein was inpired by a chemist to pose in this manner?
Recognize him?

Sorry, a top 5 chemist tongues was a bit difficult to do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Top 5 chemist smoking styles

The number 1 should be:
Smoking in a sedan chair carried by Stuart Schreiber (the bearded chemist) and other students. (The Schreiber information was provided by Ashutosh.)
Robert Burns Woodward

Bob already became number 1 on the Top 5 chemist transportation modes with this picture, so we decided not give him him another number 1 place with the same picture.

1) Smoking sigars with a bald head style

2) Nuclear Fission smoking

Lise Meitner, Fritz Strassmann, Otto Hahn

3) Smoking while reading slumped in a chair with the cigarette in the mouth style

Walther Nernst

4) Smoking while leaning head on hand and staring aimlessly style

Friedrich Bergius

5) Smoking with wriggling hands style

Lars Onsager

Friday, June 8, 2007

Top 5 missing pictures

The picture-density of this blog is quite high. It is great to find pictures of people that gave their name to a reaction or glassware. Most people are found easily.

Always nice to see whether they had a beard, moustache, no hair at all or a pince-nez.
Some pictures are hard to find. It may reamin a mystery who had a big nose, beard, Cleft lip or whatever.
Top 5 missing pictures

1) Henri Vigreux

2) Aeneas Coffey
Coffey died in 1852, so there is a big chance that there are no photographs of this guy.

3) Ernest W. Dean and David D. Stark

4) Felix Richard Allihn

5) Heinz Hunsdiecker and Clare Hunsdiecker

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Top 5 spirit stills

1) Pot still/alembic

Talisker Distillery Carbost, Isle of Skye

Used to prepare malt whisky or cognac (batch distillation). Pot stills are the modern version of the alembic.

2) Mobile distillation unitDriving from farmer to farmer in Normandy to turn their fermented apples into Calvados.

3) Coffey still (patent still) Double column continuous still for the production of grain whisky, patented by Aeneas Coffey in 1831, works with steam. There is a paper about Coffey in Annals of Science, 1968, 24, 1, 53 (I wish I had free access). ---- Ahhh thanks for sending D.-----

4) bamboo stillInexpensive and readily available hollow bamboo pipes to collect distillate.

5) Moonshine still

This can be anything, made from beer kegs, milk cans, oil drums, cooking pans, boilers etc. etc.