Visible Crystallisation

Professor Tyndall, in a lecture delivered by him at the Royal Institution, London, on the properties of Ice, gave the following interesting illustration of crystalline force. By perfectly cleaning a piece of glass, and placing on it a film of a solution of chloride of ammonium or sal ammoniac, the action of crystallisation was shown to the whole audience. The glass slide was placed in a microscope, and the electric light passing through it was concentrated on a white disc. The image of the crystals, as they started into existence, and shot across the disc in exquisite arborescent and symmetrical forms, excited the admiration of every one. The lecturer explained that the heat, causing the film of moisture to evaporate, brought the particles of salt sufficiently near to exercise the crystalline force, the result being the beautiful structure built up with such marvellous rapidity.

Reproductive Crystallisation

The general belief that only organic beings have the power of reproducing lost parts has been disproved by the experiments of Jordan on crystals. An octohedral crystal of alum was fractured; it was then replaced in a solution, and after a few days its injury was seen to be repaired. The whole crystal had of course increased in size; but the increase on the broken surface had been so much greater that a perfect octohedral form was regained.—G. H. Lewes.

This remarkable power possessed by crystals, in common with animals, of repairing their own injuries had, however, been thus previously referred to by Paget, in his Pathology, confirming the experiments of Jordan on this curious subject: “The ability to repair the damages sustained by injury ... is not an exclusive property of living beings; for even crystals will repair themselves when, after pieces have been broken from them, they are placed in the same conditions in which they were first formed.”

Theory of Crystallisation

Professor Plücker has ascertained that certain crystals, in particular the cyanite, “point very well to the north by the magnetic power of the earth only. It is a true compass-needle; and more than that, you may obtain its declination.” Upon this Mr. Hunt remarks: “We must remember that this crystal, the cyanite, is a compound of silica and alumina only. This is the amount of experimental evidence which science has afforded in explanation of the conditions under which nature pursues her wondrous work of crystal formation. We see just sufficient of the operation to be convinced that the luminous star which shines in the brightness of heaven, and the cavern-secreted gem, are equally the result of forces which are known to us in only a few of their modifications.”—Poetry of Science.

Gay Lussac first made the remark, that a crystal of potash-alum, transferred to a solution of ammonia-alum, continued to increase without its form being modified, and might thus be covered with alternate layers of the two alums, preserving its regularity and proper crystalline figure. M. Beudant afterwards observed that other bodies, such as the sulphates of iron and copper, might present themselves in crystals of the same form and angles, although the form was not a simple one, like that of alum. But M. Mitscherlich first recognised this correspondence in a sufficient number of cases to prove that it was a general consequence of similarity of composition in different bodies.—Graham's Elements of Chemistry.