Experiments (cont. 4)

On August 1, 1774, he conducted his most famous experiment. Using a 12-inch-wide glass “burning lens,” he focused sunlight on a lump of reddish mercuric oxide.  This was placed in an inverted glass container, which then was placed in a pool of mercury.Image 

The gas emitted, he found, was “five or six times as good as common air.” In tests after that one, it caused a flame to burn intensely and kept a mouse alive for about four times as long as a similar quantity of air [1]. We know now that that is because the oxygen was purer in that sample than normal atmospheric air, which contains more carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and other gases.

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